Policy Study

New York Ranks 49th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

New York’s highway system ranks 49th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a three-spot decline from the previous report, where New York ranked 46th. 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 York ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in six of the report’s 13 metrics. The state’s costs are disproportionately high and the biggest driver of its poor overall rankings. While some higher costs are understandable, New York’s 1.57 capital and bridge disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 1.3 times more than peer state Illinois’ ratio and 1.7 times more than peer state Pennsylvania’s ratio. New York’s 1.94 maintenance disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 2.3 times more than Illinois’ ratio and 1.6 times more than Pennsylvania’s ratio. New York’s 4.92 other disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 9.3 times more than Illinois’ ratio and three times more than Pennsylvania’s ratio. New York’s 9.39% of poor urban Interstate pavement mileage is 1.9 times more than Illinois’ percent and 1.5 times more than Pennsylvania’s percent. New York’s 23.81% of poor urban arterial pavement mileage is 25.9 times more than Illinois’ percent and 28.7 times more than Pennsylvania’s percent. New York drivers spend 43.2 hours in traffic annually, 1.4 times more hours than Illinois’ drivers and 1.9 times more hours Pennsylvania’s drivers. 

In safety and performance categories, New York ranks 7th in rural fatality rate, 19th in urban fatality rate, 40th in structurally deficient bridges, 49th in traffic congestion, 48th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 38th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

New York is 47th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 46th in maintenance spending per mile.

New York’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (7th) and other fatality rate (9th).

New York’s worst rankings are other disbursements per mile (50th) and urbanized area congestion (49th). 

New York commuters spend 43.2 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 49th nationally. 

New York’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 15th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, New York should try to have its high costs better translate into things like good pavement condition, less traffic congestion and fewer deficient bridges. For example, the state ranks in the bottom 20 in spending in all four disbursement categories but still ranks in the bottom 20 in all four pavement condition categories as well as in percent structurally deficient bridges,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While it may be challenging for New York to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its pavement and bridge quality to the national average, it would move up in the overall rankings substantially. As it is, the state has the worst of both worlds: high spending and poor roadways.”

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 York’s overall highway performance is worse than New Jersey (ranks 44th), Vermont (ranks 38th), and Connecticut (ranks 5th). 

New York is doing worse than comparable states such as Pennsylvania (ranks 41st) and others like Illinois (ranks 29th).

Costs in New York are higher than in some other parts of the country, including peer states Illinois and Pennsylvania. And spending this money isn’t resulting in high-quality roads. New York’s pavement condition and bridge condition are poor, with all four pavement categories and the percentage of structurally deficient bridges ranking in the bottom 20 in the nation. In contrast, peer states Illinois and Pennsylvania have pavement and bridge conditions closer to the national average. New York is remarkable for how poorly it ranks in so many categories. While two states have worse overall rankings, no other state ranks in the bottom 15 of all states in eight categories. 

New York is one of six states with a capital and bridge disbursement ratio above 1.50. The other five are Washington, Alaska, Idaho, Arizona, and New Jersey. 

New York is one of seven states with a maintenance disbursement ratio above 1.50. The other six are Washington, Vermont, Indiana, New York, Oklahoma, and California. 

New York is one of five states with an other disbursement ratio above 2.00. The other four are Oregon, Kansas, Utah, and Washington. 

New York is one of eight states that reported more than 7% of their urban Interstate pavement in poor condition. The other six are Hawaii, Louisiana, California, New Jersey, West Virginia, Delaware, and Michigan. 

New York is one of five states with more than 20% of their urban other principal arterial mileage in poor condition. The others are California, Rhode Island, Nebraska, and Massachusetts. 

New York is one of nine states where automobile commuters spend more than 30 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Texas, Rhode Island, Illinois, California, Delaware, and Connecticut are the others.

*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.