Policy Study

Pennsylvania Ranks 41st in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Pennsylvania’s highway system ranks 41st in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a two-spot decline from the previous report, where Pennsylvania ranked 39th. 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.

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in other disbursements, structurally deficient bridges, and rural Interstate pavement condition. Pennsylvania’s 1.68 other disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 3.3 times higher than peer state Ohio’s ratio but lower than peer state New York’s ratio. More than 3% (3.03%) of Pennsylvania’s rural Interstates are in poor condition. This is 1.4 times more than Ohio’s percent, but similar to New York’s percent. Finally, 13.80% of Pennsylvania’s bridges are structurally deficient, 1.4 times higher than New York’s percent and three times higher than Ohio’s percent.

In safety and performance categories, Pennsylvania ranks 9th in rural fatality rate, 29th in urban fatality rate, 46th in structurally deficient bridges, 32nd in traffic congestion, 39th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 42nd in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Pennsylvania is 21st in capital and bridge spending per mile and 37th in maintenance spending per mile.

Pennsylvania’s best rankings are in rural fatality rate (9th) and capital and bridge disbursement per mile (21st).

Pennsylvania’s worst rankings are structurally deficient bridges (46th) and other disbursements per lane-mile (43rd). 

Pennsylvania commuters spend 22.9 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 32nd nationally. 

Pennsylvania’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the fifth largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Pennsylvania needs to reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges, and improve its rural Interstate pavement condition and its urbanized area congestion. Given the poor condition of its bridges and its mediocre pavement condition, the state might consider reprioritizing its spending to focus more on roadway and bridge maintenance,” 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 Pennsylvania to have low costs and roadways and bridges in good condition, the state needs to prioritize bringing its infrastructure to a state of good repair.”

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, Pennsylvania’s overall highway performance is worse than Maryland (ranks 24th) and West Virginia (ranks 39th), but better than New Jersey (ranks 44th). 

Pennsylvania is doing better than some comparable states such as New York (ranks 49th) but worse than others like Ohio (ranks 17th).

Pennsylvania ranks in the bottom 20 states in 10 of the 13 categories. The only categories in which it ranks in the top 30 are rural and urban fatality rates and capital and bridge disbursements per mile. It is fair to say the state is not the highest performer in our study. The state used an innovative public private partnership—the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project—to improve its bridges. Unfortunately, they still rank 46th and need further attention. The state also could reduce its 32nd place ranking in congestion by building variably priced managed toll lanes in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, an area in which the state lags behind its peer states.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states with more than 3% of their rural Interstate system pavement in poor condition. The other seven are Alaska, Colorado, California, Washington, West Virginia, Louisiana, and Michigan.

Pennsylvania is one of nine states that reported more than 10% of their bridges are structurally deficient. The others are West Virginia, Iowa, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Louisiana, Maine, North Dakota, and Michigan.  

Pennsylvania 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, Oregon, Nevada, South Dakota, South Carolina, Michigan, Kansas, and Illinois.

Pennsylvania 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, 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.