Policy Study

Virginia Ranks 1st in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

Virginia’s highway system ranks 1st in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a one-spot improvement from the previous report, where Virginia ranked 2nd. 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.

Virginia has no rankings in the bottom 20 of all states. Virginia’s worst ranking is other fatality rate at 29th. The state’s 1.52 rate could be improved, but it is lower than peer states North Carolina and Georgia.

In safety and performance categories, Virginia ranks 27th in rural fatality rate, 10th in urban fatality rate, 10th in structurally deficient bridges, 24th in traffic congestion, 19th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 5th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

Virginia is 1st in capital and bridge spending per mile and 28th in maintenance spending per mile.

Virginia’s best rankings are in capital and bridge disbursements per mile (1st) and rural arterial pavement condition (3rd).

Virginia’s worst rankings are in other fatality rate (29th) and maintenance disbursements per mile (28th).

Virginia commuters spend 19.9 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 24th nationally. 

Virginia’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the third largest highway system in the country. 

“To improve in the category rankings, Virginia should try to reduce its other and rural fatality rates, as well as its maintenance disbursements per mile. While none of the rankings are awful, these are the only categories for which Virginia ranks in the bottom half of all states,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “Over the past two years Virginia’s ranking has improved 20 spots due to the improvement in all four disbursement categories, including by double digits in capital and bridge disbursements. Virginia is now the top performing state in this report.”

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, Virginia’s overall highway performance is better than Tennessee (ranks 3rd), West Virginia (ranks 39th), and Maryland (ranks 24th). 

Virginia is doing better than comparable states such as North Carolina (ranks 2nd) and Georgia (ranks 4th). 

Virginia is one of the few states that manage to have low overall costs and high overall system quality. The state is the only one with no rankings outside the top 30. In fact, Virginia ranks in the top 20 in nine of 13 categories. The secret to the state’s high overall ranking is not its number one rankings. It ranks best in only one category. Rather, it is the lack of poor rankings. Virginia could still reduce its traffic congestion, which is forecast to rebound in a post-COVID world particularly along the I-81 and I-95 corridors. The state has added a network of managed lanes in Northern Virginia, but traffic congestion is still a problem in urban parts of the state. 

Virginia 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, Pennsylvania, Washington, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, 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.