Policy Study

Vermont Ranks 38th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Vermont’s highway system ranks 38th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a 25-spot decrease from the previous report, where Vermont ranked 13th. 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.

Vermont ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in maintenance, administrative, and other disbursements per lane-mile. Vermont’s 2.12 maintenance disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 1.5 times higher than peer state Maine’s ratio and 2.2 higher than peer state New Hampshire’s ratio. Vermont’s 3.21 administrative disbursements per lane-mile ratio is 11.4 times higher than Maine’s ratio and 1.4 times higher than New Hampshire’s ratio. Vermont’s 1.83 other disbursement per lane-mile ratio is 2.7 times higher than Maine’s ratio and 1.7 times higher than Vermont’s ratio. 

In safety and performance categories, Vermont ranks 6th in rural fatality rate, 12th in urban fatality rate, 7th in structurally deficient bridges, 19th in traffic congestion, 6th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 21st in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Vermont is 35th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 49th in maintenance spending per mile.

Vermont’s best rankings are in urban Interstate pavement condition (6th) and rural fatality rate (6th).

Vermont’s worst rankings are in administrative disbursements per mile (50th) and maintenance disbursements per miler (49th). 

Vermont commuters spend 19 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 19th nationally. 

Vermont’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 48th largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the rankings, Vermont should try to reduce its administrative disbursements per mile and maintenance disbursements per mile. The state ranks last of all states in administrative disbursements per mile and second to last in maintenance disbursements. This spending is the biggest reason the state lags its peer states in this ranking,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state’s ranking dropped 25 places from the previous version due to high disbursements and a decline in rural arterial pavement quality.”

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, Vermont’s overall highway performance is worse than Connecticut (ranks 5th) and Massachusetts (ranks 20th), but better than New York (ranks 49th). 

Vermont is doing worse than comparable states such as New Hampshire (ranks 14th) and Maine (ranks 32nd). 

Vermont was penalized by the report’s change in calculating spending. However, high spending is not the state’s only problem. Vermont has high disbursements but low fatality rates. While maintenance, administrative, and other disbursements all rank in the bottom 10 of all states, Vermont average fatality rank of 9.3 is the lowest of any state in the country. However, to improve its ranking the state needs to reduce its spending and improve its rural arterial pavement quality substantially. 

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

Vermont is one of seven states with an administrative disbursement ratio higher than 2.0. The other six are Delaware, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota, New Hampshire, and Washington. 

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