Policy Study

New Mexico Ranks 36th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

New Mexico’s highway system ranks 36th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a nine-spot decline from the previous report, where New Mexico ranked 27th. 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 Mexico ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in administrative disbursements and urban fatality rate. The state’s 2.53 administrative disbursements per-lane-mile ratio is 1.1 times lower than peer state Nevada’s ratio and 4.3 times higher than peer state Utah’s ratio. The state’s urban fatality rate of 2.15 is two times higher than Nevada’s rate and 2.5 times higher than Utah’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, New Mexico ranks 31st in rural fatality rate, 50th in urban fatality rate, 18th in structurally deficient bridges, 16th in traffic congestion, 28th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 40th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

New Mexico is 7th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 1st in maintenance spending per mile.

New Mexico’s best rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (1st) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (7th). 

New Mexico’s worst rankings are in urban fatality rate (50th) and administrative disbursement per lane-mile (48th). 

New Mexico commuters spend 17.6 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 16th nationally. 

New Mexico’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 21st largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, New Mexico needs to reduce its urban fatality rate and improve its administrative efficiency. The state ranks 48th in administrative spending and 50th in urban fatality rate. These are the only categories where the state ranks in the bottom 10,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “New Mexico will not improve in the ratings until it improves in these categories.” 

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 Mexico’s overall highway performance is worse than Arizona (ranks 30th) and Texas (ranks 19th), but better than Colorado (ranks 43rd).

New Mexico is doing worse than comparable states such as Utah (ranks 10th) and others like Nevada (ranks 21st).

New Mexico’s high administrative spending and rural fatality rate are the state’s biggest weaknesses. The state has low capital disbursements and maintenance disbursements. Traffic congestion is minimal and bridge condition is good. Yet, the state finishes in the top 20 in only four categories. There’s a lot of room for improvement but if New Mexico is able to reduce its fatality rate and administrative spending even slightly, it will move back into the top 25 overall. 

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

New Mexico 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 Florida, Arizona, Tennessee, Louisiana, Mississippi, Wyoming, Delaware, Missouri, Alaska, Hawaii, Kentucky, Alabama, Georgia, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.

New Mexico 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, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, 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.