Policy Study

Nevada Ranks 21st in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Nevada’s highway system ranks 21st in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot decrease from the previous report where Nevada ranked 20th. 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.

Nevada ranks in the bottom 10 states nationally in capital and bridge disbursements, administrative disbursements, and rural fatality rate. Nevada’s 1.36 capital and bridge disbursement per lane-mile ratio is higher than Utah’s ratio but lower than Arizona’s ratio. Nevada’s 2.34 administrative disbursement per lane-mile ratio is four times higher than Utah’s ratio and 1.5 times higher than Arizona’s ratio. Nevada’s rural fatality rate of 2.19 is 1.5 times higher than peer state Arizona and 2.2 times higher than peer state Utah. 

In safety and performance categories, Nevada ranks 48th in rural fatality rate, 32nd in urban fatality rate, 2nd in structurally deficient bridges, 11th in traffic congestion, 17th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 2nd in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Nevada is 44th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 24th in maintenance spending per mile.

Nevada’s best rankings are in rural arterial pavement condition (1st), structurally deficient bridges (2nd), and rural Interstate pavement condition (2nd).

Nevada’s worst rankings are in rural fatality rate (48th) and administrative disbursements per mile (47th).

Nevada commuters spend 16.4 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 11th nationally. 

Nevada’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 40th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Nevada needs to improve its administrative efficiency and reduce its rural fatality rate. The state’s capital and maintenance costs are above average but translate to a highway system with excellent pavement condition and the second lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. However, the administrative costs seem out of line. Nevada’s other and urban fatality rates are good, especially compared to peer states Arizona and Utah. But the rural fatality rate is very high. A campaign that prioritizes reducing fatalities on the state’s roads might help reduce the rate,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “If Nevada could improve its rural fatality rate and adjust its administrative costs, it could be a top-10 state in the rankings.”

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, Nevada’s overall highway performance is better than Idaho (ranks 34th), Oregon (ranks 37th), and California (ranks 47th).

Nevada is doing better than some comparable states such as Arizona (ranks 30th) but worse than others like Utah (ranks 10th).

The overall quality of Nevada’s system is good. Pavement quality is excellent, and the percentage of structurally deficient bridges is low. But Nevada still ranks 11 places behind peer state and neighbor Utah. The biggest difference is administrative costs and fatality rates. If Nevada were able to improve in those rankings a little bit, its overall ranking would rise significantly. 

Nevada is one of seven states with an administrative disbursement per mile ratio above 2.0. The other six are Vermont, Delaware, New Mexico, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Washington. 

Nevada is one of three states that have rural fatality rates of 2.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. The other two states are South Carolina and Hawaii.

Nevada 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, Missouri, Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.

*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.