Policy Study

Utah Ranks 10th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Utah’s highway system ranks 10th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a four-spot decrease from the previous report, where Utah ranked 6th. 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.

Utah ranks in the bottom 15 nationally in capital disbursements and other disbursements. The state’s 1.30 capital disbursement per lane-mile ratio is lower than peer state Nevada’s ratio, but 1.2 times higher than peer state Colorado’s ratio. Utah’s 2.12 other disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 1.8 times higher than Nevada’s ratio and 4.8 times higher than Colorado’s ratio. 

In safety and performance categories, Utah ranks 16th in rural fatality rate, 13th in urban fatality rate, 5th in structurally deficient bridges, 13th in traffic congestion, 4th in rural Interstate pavement condition, and 20th in urban Interstate pavement condition. 

Utah is 40th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 32nd in maintenance spending per mile.

Utah’s best rankings are in rural Interstate pavement condition (4th), structurally deficient bridges (5th), and urban arterial pavement condition (5th).

Utah’s worst rankings are other disbursements per mile (47th) and capital and bridge disbursements per mile (40th). 

Utah commuters spend 17 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 13th nationally. 

Utah’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 37th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Utah should try to reduce its capital and bridge disbursements and its other disbursements. While Utah does not rank poorly in any category, decreasing spending slightly will help the state move up in the rankings,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “If Utah is able to decrease its disbursements, it will vault into the top five in the overall 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, Utah’s overall highway performance is better than Idaho (ranks 34th), New Mexico (ranks 36th), and Arizona (ranks 30th). 

Utah is doing better than comparable states such as Nevada (ranks 21st) and Colorado (ranks 43rd). 

Utah’s department of transportation (DOT) has long had the reputation of being one of the best run, if not the best run, DOTs in the country. Therefore, it is not surprising that Utah ranks in the top 10 in the Annual Highway Report. Utah’s ranking also shows that states with above average spending can rank highly if their pavement quality and bridges are in good condition. Utah ranks in the bottom 20 in two of the four disbursement categories. Yet, because 10 of Utah’s 13 performance rankings are in the top 20, the state ranks in the top five. Utah’s worst ranking is other disbursements per mile. If the state can decrease that spending, the state will move into the top five of all states.

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

*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.