Policy Study

New Hampshire Ranks 14th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

New Hampshire’s highway system ranks 14th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a five-spot improvement from the previous report, in which the state ranked 19th. 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.

New Hampshire ranks in the bottom 10 in administrative disbursements per mile. New Hampshire’s 2.23 administrative disbursement per lane-mile ratio is eight times higher than peer state Maine’s ratio, but lower than peer state Vermont’s ratio.

In safety and performance categories, New Hampshire ranks 3rd in rural fatality rate, 1st in urban fatality rate, 34th in structurally deficient bridges, 21st in traffic congestion, 1st in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 6th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

New Hampshire is 19th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 30th in maintenance costs per mile.

New Hampshire’s best rankings are in urban Interstate pavement condition (1st) and urban fatality rate (1st).

New Hampshire’s worst rankings are administrative disbursements per lane-mile (45th), other disbursements per lane-mile (34th), and structurally deficient bridges (34th). 

New Hampshire commuters spend 19.1 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 21st nationally. 

New Hampshire’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 47th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, New Hampshire needs to improve its administrative efficiency and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges. New Hampshire lags its peer states somewhat in these metrics,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The overall quality of New Hampshire’s system is good, especially for the relatively high-cost Northeast. New Hampshire does not have many weaknesses but by improving in the administrative costs and structurally deficient bridges categories, the state can move into the top 10.” 

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, New Hampshire’s overall highway performance is worse than Connecticut (ranks 5th), but better than Massachusetts (ranks 20th) and New York (ranks 49th).

New Hampshire is doing better than some comparable states such as Vermont (ranks 38th) and others like Maine (ranks 32nd).

New Hampshire has a high ranking for a state in the Northeast. And the reason is straightforward. The state is able to have good pavement quality and low fatality rates. However, New Hampshire’s administrative spending is high. If the state reduces its administrative disbursements, it could be a top-10 state.

*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.