Policy Study

West Virginia Ranks 39th in the Nation in Highway Performance and Cost-Effectiveness

West Virginia’s highway system ranks 39th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report by Reason Foundation. This is a nine-spot decrease from the previous report, where West Virginia ranked 30th. 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.

West Virginia ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in five categories. A total 3.44% of West Virginia’s rural Interstates have poor pavement, 4.3 times more than peer state Kentucky’s poor pavement and 1.2 times more than peer state Indiana’s poor pavement. A total 8.99% of West Virginia’s urban Interstate pavement is in poor condition, 3.9 times more than Kentucky’s percent and 2.1 times more than Indiana’s percent. A total 2.93% of West Virginia’s rural arterial pavement is in poor condition, 5.6 times more than Kentucky’s percent and 7.9 more than Indiana’s percent. Further, 20.37% of West Virginia’s bridges are structurally deficient, 3.6 times more than Indiana’s percent and three times more than Kentucky’s percent. Finally, West Virginia has an other fatality rate of 2.28, 1.1 times higher than Kentucky’s rate and 1.9 times higher than Indiana’s rate. 

In safety and performance categories, West Virginia ranks 21st in rural fatality rate, 21st in urban fatality rate, 50th in structurally deficient bridges, 6th in traffic congestion, 45th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 44th in rural Interstate pavement condition. 

West Virginia is 4th in capital and bridge spending per mile and 9th in maintenance spending per mile.

West Virginia’s best rankings are in capital and bridge disbursements per mile (4th) and other disbursements per mile (4th).

West Virginia’s worst rankings are in structurally deficient bridges (50th) and other fatality rate (50th). 

West Virginia commuters spend 10 hours stuck in traffic congestion, ranking 6th nationally. 

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

“To rise in the rankings, West Virginia needs to improve the condition of its pavement and its bridges. West Virginia is one of only two states where more than 20% of the bridges are structurally deficient, which can be a safety concern. West Virginia is one of six states where more than 2.5% of rural arterial pavement is in poor condition. This is a concern because West Virginia has a large number of rural arterials,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “The state’s disbursements are among the lowest in the country. But the poor quality of the infrastructure suggests West Virginia may need to direct more resources to its highway system.”

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, West Virginia’s overall highway performance is worse than Maryland (ranks 24th), Ohio (ranks 17th), and Virginia (ranks 1st). 

West Virginia is doing worse than some comparable states such as Indiana (ranks 23rd) and others like Kentucky (ranks 7th).

West Virginia shows that it takes more than low costs to earn a high ranking. In fact, the lowest ranking the state earns in any spending category is 14th in maintenance disbursements. So what’s the problem? Overall, the system is in poor shape. West Virginia has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges, the sixth highest percentage of poor rural arterial pavement as well as many miles of poor Interstate pavement. In fact, if not for good rankings in rural fatality rate and urban fatality rate for such a rural state, West Virginia would rank lower. To improve in the rankings the state needs to prioritize improving its pavement and bridge quality. 

West Virginia 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, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

West Virginia is one of eight states that reported more than 7% of their urban Interstate pavement in poor condition. The other six are Hawaii, Louisiana, New York, California, New Jersey, Delaware, and Michigan.

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

West 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 Mississippi, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, 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.