Policy Study

Oklahoma Ranks 45th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Oklahoma’s highway system ranks 45th 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 Oklahoma ranked 36th. 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.

Oklahoma ranks in the bottom 10 in six of the 13 categories. The state’s 1.32 capital and bridge disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 1.9 times higher than peer state Arkansas’ ratio and two times higher than peer state Kansas’ ratio. The state’s 1.88 maintenance disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 4.4 times higher than Arkansas’ ratio and 2.3 times higher than Kansas’ ratio. The state’s 1.53 administrative disbursements per lane-mile ratio is eight times higher than Arkansas’ ratio and two times higher than Kansas’ ratio. Oklahoma drivers spend 29.6 hours annually in traffic, 1.5 times more than Arkansas’ drivers and 1.2 times more than Kansas’ drivers. Almost 10% (9.89%) of Oklahoma’s bridges are structurally deficient—1.9 times higher than Arkansas’ and Kansas’ percents. Finally, Oklahoma’s other fatality rate of 1.97 is 1.8 times higher than Arkansas’ rate and similar to Kansas’ rate.

In safety and performance categories, Oklahoma ranks 33rd in rural fatality rate, 35th in urban fatality rate, 41st in structurally deficient bridges, 41st in traffic congestion, 38th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 35th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Oklahoma is 41st in capital and bridge spending per mile and 45th in maintenance spending per mile.

Oklahoma’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (25th) and rural fatality rate (33rd).

Oklahoma’s worst rankings are in maintenance disbursements per lane-mile (45th) and other fatality rate (44th).

Oklahoma commuters spend 29.6 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 41st nationally. 

Oklahoma’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 18th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Oklahoma needs to focus on improving its system quality. The state ranks in the bottom 15 of all states in all four disbursement measures and the bottom 10 in percent of structurally deficient bridges,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Oklahoma is not in a high-cost environment. Considering what the state is spending, it should have much better quality infrastructure. As is, the state has high costs, poor pavement and bridge conditions, and a high fatality rate.”

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, Oklahoma’s overall highway performance is worse than Colorado (ranks 43rd), Texas (ranks 19th), and Missouri (ranks 11th). 

Oklahoma is doing worse than comparable states such as Arkansas (ranks 13th) and others like Kansas (ranks 22nd). 

Some states such as Virginia have few categories in which they can improve. Others like New Hampshire are strong in some categories and weak in others. But no state ranks as poorly in as many categories as Oklahoma. Oklahoma needs to improve in every category. The best place to start is pavement and bridge condition. The state has far too many structurally deficient bridges, and pavement quality, particularly on rural highways, is poor. Disbursements, which are very high for a rural Great Plains state, also need to be a focus area. Becoming a top-20 state in pavement and bridge quality will help Oklahoma rise in the overall rankings. 

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

Oklahoma 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, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kansas, Illinois, and New Mexico.

Oklahoma 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, Oregon, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, 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.