Policy Study

Oregon Ranks 37th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness 

Oregon’s highway system ranks 37th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 12-spot decrease from the previous report, where Oregon ranked 25th. 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.

Oregon ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in other disbursements, as well as both rural and other fatalities. Oregon’s 2.85 other disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 1.4 times more than peer state Utah’s ratio and 1.1 times more than peer state Washington’s ratio. Oregon’s other fatality rate of 1.94 is 1.9 times higher than Utah’s rate and 1.2 times higher than Washington’s rate. Oregon’s rural fatality rate of 1.62 is approximately 1.5 times higher than Utah’s rate, and two times higher than Washington’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Oregon ranks 42nd in rural fatality rate, 33rd in urban fatality rate, 13th in structurally deficient bridges, 33rd in traffic congestion, 21st in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 11th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Oregon is 39th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 35th in maintenance spending per mile.

Oregon’s best rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition (11th) and structurally deficient bridges (13th).

Oregon’s worst rankings are in other disbursements per lane-mile (49th) and other fatality rate (43rd).

Oregon commuters spend 23 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 33rd nationally. 

Oregon’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 33rd largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Oregon needs to reduce its other disbursements per mile as well as its rural and other fatality rates. The state ranks in the bottom 10 in each of these three categories,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “On the other hand, the state has good quality pavement and a low percentage of structurally deficient bridges.”

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, Oregon’s overall highway performance is better than California (ranks 47th) and Idaho (ranks 34th), but worse than Nevada (ranks 21st). 

Oregon is doing better than some comparable states such as Washington (ranks 46th) but worse than others like Utah (ranks 10th).

Oregon was penalized by the report’s change in calculating spending. It has no rankings in the top 10 but three in the bottom 10. But a closer look shows fatality rates to be a bigger problem than spending. While the state has smooth road pavement and a low percentage of structurally deficient bridges, it has a high overall fatality rate, higher other disbursements, and significant traffic congestion. Given the state’s average to slightly above average costs, it should be performing better. Its fatality rates lag significantly behind Utah, a state with which it has many similarities. 

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

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

Oregon 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, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, North Carolina, California, South Dakota, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia, Illinois, and Ohio.

Oregon is one of six states that declined in the overall rankings by at least 10 spots from the previous report. The other states are Montana, Kansas, South Dakota, Vermont, and Idaho.

*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.