Policy Study

Texas Ranks 19th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Texas’ highway system ranks 19th 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 Texas ranked 16th. 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.

Texas ranks in the bottom 10 states nationally in traffic congestion and other fatality rate. Texas’ 34.9 hours of traffic congestion are 4.4 times more than peer state Montana’s hours but similar to peer state California’s hours. Texas’ 1.89 per 100 million other vehicle-miles fatality rate is lower than Montana’s rate but 1.1 times higher than California’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, Texas ranks 40th in rural fatality rate, 34th in urban fatality rate, 3rd in structurally deficient bridges, 47th in traffic congestion, 30th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 22nd in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Texas is 31st in capital and bridge spending per mile and 17th in maintenance spending per mile.

Texas’ best rankings are in percent structurally deficient bridges (3rd), administrative disbursements per mile (9th), and rural arterial pavement condition (9th).

Texas’ worst rankings are in urbanized area congestion (47th) and other fatality rate (42nd). 

Texas commuters spend 34.9 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 47th nationally.

Texas’ state-controlled highway mileage makes it the largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Texas needs to reduce its urbanized area congestion and its rural fatality rate. The state ranks in the bottom 10 of all states in both categories,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Texas ranks in the top half of all states in five categories and has no other glaring weaknesses. If the state can reduce urbanized area congestion and rural fatality rate, it could move up significantly in the rankings.” 

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, Texas’ overall highway performance is better than New Mexico (ranks 36th), Louisiana (ranks 41st), and Oklahoma (ranks 45th). 

Texas is doing better than some comparable states such as California (ranks 47th) and others like Montana (ranks 25th). 

Texas ranks in the top 20 because its rankings are average to good in most categories. Its overall costs rank slightly below average, its overall pavement quality ranks above average, and it has the third lowest percentage of structurally deficient bridges. Considering the state has large rural sections, its fatality rates are not bad either. But urbanized area congestion and urban fatality rate are major weaknesses. And by prohibiting construction of new toll roads, Texas legislators are taking away one of the most effective tools in reducing traffic congestion. Texas is unlikely to move up in the rankings until it addresses traffic congestion in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. 

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

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

Texas 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, 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.