Policy Study

Missouri Ranks 11th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Missouri’s highway system ranks 11th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is an eight-spot decline from the previous report where Missouri ranked 3rd. However, some categories in the report cannot be compared to previous years due to methodological changes that also impacted some state’s overall rankings. These changes are fully explained in Part 2 and the appendix of the full report.

Missouri ranks in the bottom 15 of all states in urban area congestion, structurally deficient bridges, and urban fatality rate. Missouri’s 28.1 hours of urbanized area congestion is 1.1 times higher than peer state Kansas’ rate and 1.4 times higher than peer state Louisiana’s rate. Missouri’s 9.02% of structurally deficient bridges is 1.8 times higher than Kansas’ percent but lower than Louisiana’s percent. Finally, Missouri’s 1.30 urban fatality rate is 1.3 times higher than Kansas’ rate but lower than Louisiana’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Missouri ranks 17th in rural fatality rate, 42nd in urban fatality rate, 39th in structurally deficient bridges, 38th in traffic congestion, 9th in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 24th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

Missouri is 2nd in capital and bridge costs per mile and 15th in maintenance spending per mile.

Missouri’s best rankings are in capital and bridge disbursements (2nd) and rural Interstate pavement condition (9th).

Missouri’s worst rankings are in urban fatality rate (42nd) and structurally deficient bridges (39th). 

Missouri commuters spend 28.1 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 38th nationally. 

Missouri’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the sixth largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Missouri needs to reduce its urban fatality rate, improve its traffic congestion, and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Missouri ranks in the top 30 of all states in nine of the other categories. The state is a consistently strong performer, having finished in the top 15 states for the last six years.” 

Additional Analysis 

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement condition, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, and spending (capital, maintenance, administrative, other) per mile.

Compared to nearby states, Missouri’s overall highway performance is similar to Arkansas (ranks 13th), but better than Iowa (ranks 31st) and Illinois (ranks 29th).

Missouri is doing better than comparable states such as Kansas (ranks 22nd) and others like Louisiana (ranks 36th). 

While Missouri’s rankings in urbanized area congestion, percent structurally deficient bridges, and urban fatality rate are not awful, compared to the state’s other stellar rankings they stick out like a sore thumb. It’s impossible for any one state to rank highly in all the categories, but if Missouri is able to reduce its urbanized area congestion, percent structurally deficient bridges, and urban fatality rate, the state would return to the top 10,  perhaps the top five, in overall ranking. 

Missouri is one of 25 states that have urban fatality rates of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. The other 24 states are New Mexico, Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.

Missouri is one of 24 states that have other fatality rates of 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. The other 23 are West Virginia, Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio. 

*2021 data
The Annual Highway Report is based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government and urban congestion data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute for 2020 as well as bridge condition data from the Better Roads inventory for 2021. For more details on the calculation of each of the 13 performance measures used in the report, as well as the overall performance measure, please refer to the appendix in the main report. The report’s dataset includes Interstate, federal, and state roads, but not county or local roads. All rankings are based on performance measures that are ratios rather than absolute values: the financial measures are disbursements per mile, the fatality rate is fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles of travel, the urban congestion measure is the annual delay per auto commuter, and the others are percentages. For example, the state ranking 1st in structurally deficient bridges has the smallest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, not the smallest number of structurally deficient bridges.