Policy Study

Ohio Ranks 17th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Ohio’s highway system ranks 17th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a seven-spot improvement from the previous report, where Ohio ranked 24th. 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.

Ohio ranks in the bottom 15 states nationally in administrative disbursements and urban arterial pavement condition. Ohio’s 1.42 capital and bridge disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 3.3 times higher than peer state Illinois’ ratio and 2.9 times more than peer state Michigan’s ratio. More than 15.37% of Ohio’s urban arterial pavement is in poor condition. That percentage is 1.5 times higher than Illinois’ percentage but less than Michigan’s percentage. 

In safety and performance categories, Ohio ranks 11th in rural fatality rate, 15th in urban fatality rate, 16th in structurally deficient bridges, 30th in traffic congestion, 32nd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 33rd in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Ohio is 16th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 7th in maintenance spending per mile.

Ohio’s best rankings are in maintenance disbursements per lane-mile (7th) and rural fatality rate (11th).

Ohio’s worst rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (39th) and administrative disbursements per lane-mile (37th).

Ohio commuters spend 22.6 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 30th nationally. 

Ohio’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 10th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Ohio needs to reduce its administrative disbursements or have those costs translate into better system performance. The state also needs to improve its urban arterial pavement condition,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Ohio’s administrative costs and urban arterial pavement condition are the state’s biggest weaknesses.”

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, Ohio’s overall highway performance is better than Indiana (ranks 23rd) and Pennsylvania (ranks 41st) but worse than Kentucky (ranks 7th). 

Ohio is doing better than comparable states such as Michigan (ranks 27th) and others like Illinois (ranks 29th).

Ohio’s 17th-place ranking is above average. However, for several years, Ohio was the top-ranked large population state (defined as a population of 10 million or more). But for the past two years North Carolina and Georgia have each ranked higher. What’s responsible for the change? The biggest culprit is Ohio’s administrative costs per lane-mile, which increased 129% from $5,390 to $12,329 in 2019 (before adjusting for population density) and have not improved since. This could represent a large increase in personnel or be parked funds (revenue used for a multi-year project). Regardless, it is a large increase and the biggest factor in Ohio’s decline in the rankings. 

Ohio 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, Missouri, Virginia, 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.