18th Annual Highway Report

Policy Study

18th Annual Highway Report

The Performance of State Highway Systems (1984-2007)

North Dakota continues to have the nation’s most efficient state-owned highway system, according to Reason Foundation’s 18th Annual Highway Report.

The study finds over half of all state-owned highways across the country are congested and 25 percent of bridges are deficient or functionally obsolete.

Since 1984, per-mile total disbursements on state highways have increased by 262 percent. In 2007, U.S. states spent over $109 billion on state-owned highways, a 10 percent increase over 2006. But not everyone is getting their money’s worth. Taxpayers in New York, Hawaii, New Jersey, California, Rhode Island and Alaska have the worst-performing highway systems in the nation.

The Reason Foundation study examines state highway systems in 11 categories, including congestion, pavement condition, fatalities, deficient bridges and total spending. The annual report is based on information that each state reported for the year 2007.

Top-ranked North Dakota, which has had the best performing system each year since 2001, scored well by having the least interstate and rural mileage in poor condition and ranking first in maintenance spending. New Mexico continues its impressive improvement. The state was 27th in 2000, but now ranks 2nd in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Kansas is 3rd overall, South Carolina, with one of the largest state-owned highway systems in the country, is 4th and Montana rounds out the top five.

Delaware posted the biggest improvement in the overall rankings, moving from 28th to 11th by cutting spending without sacrificing road condition. Michigan improved from 42nd to 30th thanks to an improvement in rural pavement condition. Mississippi also posted double-digit gains.

Four states fell in the overall rankings by double-digits – Missouri, Oregon, Vermont and Indiana, which fell 16 spots, from 15th to 31st, because of a sharp decline in urban interstate condition and an increase in spending per mile.

The overall efficiency and cost-effectiveness rankings for 2007:


1 North Dakota
2 New Mexico
3 Kansas
4 South Carolina
5 Montana
6 Wyoming
7 Nebraska
8 South Dakota
9 Georgia
10 Kentucky
11 Delaware
12 Virginia
13 Ohio
14 Idaho
15 Minnesota
16 Utah
17 Texas
18 Nevada
19 Tennessee
20 North Carolina
21 Wisconsin
22 Oregon
23 Missouri
24 Arizona
25 Alabama
26 West Virginia
27 Mississippi
28 Maine
29 Iowa
30 Michigan
31 Indiana
32 Arkansas
33 Colorado
34 Oklahoma
35 Washington
36 Illinois
37 Connecticut
38 Pennsylvania
39 New Hampshire
40 Florida
41 Maryland
42 Vermont
43 Louisiana
44 Massachusetts
45 New York
46 Hawaii
47 New Jersey
48 California
49 Rhode Island
50 Alaska

View the Rankings in Each Category

How Your State Ranked In Every Category

David T. Hartgen

David T. Hartgen is Emeritus Professor of Transportation Studies at UNC Charlotte. Professor Hartgen is widely known in transportation circles. He established UNC Charlotte's Center for Interdisciplinary Transportation Studies in 1989 and now teaches and conducts research in transportation policy and planning. He is the author of about 330 studies on a wide variety of topics in transportation policy and planning, is the U.S. editor of the international academic journal Transportation, and is active in professional organizations. He is a frequent media interviewee in local and national outlets. Before coming to Charlotte he directed the statistics, traffic forecasting and analysis functions of the New York State Department of Transportation and served as a Policy Analyst at the Federal Highway Administration. He holds engineering degrees from Duke University and Northwestern University. He has taught at SUNY Albany, Union College and Syracuse University and lectures widely. His studies of the comparative performance of transportation systems have received nation-wide attention. He has also recently completed a major component of Reason's Mobility Study that estimates the cost of significantly reducing road congestion nation-wide, a comprehensive study of congestion in North Carolina, and a comparative study of the 50 state highway systems . His current research includes an assessment of the economic impact of highways in South Carolina, a review of transportation performance for the provinces of Canada, a national study of business impacts of congestion, and an assessment of congestion in mid-sized cities.

M. Gregory Fields is a retired military officer with degrees from West Point, Webster University in St. Louis, and UNC Charlotte. He is enrolled in the PhD program in Urban Regional Analysis at UNC Charlotte and has participated in a number of comparative transportation studies.