20th Annual Highway Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems

Policy Study

20th Annual Highway Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems

State-by-state highway performance and cost-effectiveness rankings

Reason Foundation’s 20th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems tracks the performance of state-owned highway systems of the United States from 1984 to 2009. Eleven indicators make up each state’s overall rating, including highway expenditures, interstate and primary road pavement condition, bridge condition, urban interstate congestion, fatality rates and narrow rural lanes. The study is based on spending and performance data submitted by the state highway agencies to the federal government.

The system’s overall condition improved dramatically from 2008 to 2009. Six of the seven key indicators of system condition showed improvement, including large gains in rural interstate and urban interstate condition, and a reduction in the fatality rate. Only rural arterial condition worsened slightly, but poor mileage is still only a fraction of 1 percent. These improvements were achieved despite a slight reduction in per-mile expenditures. All seven indicators of performance improved between 2005 and 2009. Overall, expenditures for state-owned roads have increased about 18.8 percent since 2005, but in the 2008-09 recession expenditures actually decreased slightly between 2008 and 2009, dropping about 0.6 percent. States were also more cost-efficient with their money in 2009: administrative costs dropped about 14 percent (possibly through the states disbursing funds received earlier). In addition, money was shifted to capital and bridge expenditures (up 3.5 percent) and maintenance expenditures (up 11.0 percent).

The U.S. economic downturn, which began in 2007 and continued in earnest in 2008 and 2009, is an important background factor influencing these trends. In 2008 total U.S. annual vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) fell about 3.5 percent from 2007 levels, lowering congestion slightly from prior years. Also, beginning in late 2008 and continuing into 2009 and 2010, federal stimulus funding contributed an additional 22 percent to funding resources.

North Dakota continued to lead the cost-effectiveness ratings, followed by Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana. But some large states-notably Missouri, Texas and Georgia-were also top-12 performers. At the bottom were Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii, California and New Jersey. Most states continued to improve their systems, but increasingly, system performance problems seem to be concentrated in a few states:

  • Almost two-thirds of the poor-condition rural interstate mileage is in just five states: California, Alaska, Minnesota, New York and Colorado.
  • Over half (52.7 percent) of the poor-condition urban interstate mileage is in just five states: California, New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Texas.
  • Two states (Alaska and Rhode Island) reported more than 10 percent of their rural primary mileage to be in poor condition.
  • Four states (California, Minnesota, Maryland and Connecticut) reported more than two-thirds of their urban interstates congested.
  • Although bridge conditions are steadily improving, 20 states report more than one-quarter of their bridges are deficient, with one state (Rhode Island) reporting more than 50 percent of its bridges deficient. For 2010, 20 states again report more than one-quarter of their bridges are deficient, but none with more than 50 percent.
  • Most states are improving their fatality rates. One state (Montana) reports a fatality rate greater than 2.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles and nine other states report a rate greater than 1.5 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles. For 2010, nine states report a fatality rate greater than 1.5 with no states reporting a rate above 2.0.
  • Five states (Pennsylvania, Arkansas, West Virginia, Washington and Virginia) report more than one-quarter of their rural primary mileage with narrow lanes.

A widening gap seems to be emerging between most states that are making progress and a few states that are finding it difficult to improve. There is also increasing evidence that higher-level road systems (Interstates, other freeways and principal arterials) are in better shape than lower-level road systems, particularly local roads.

Reason Foundation’s 20th Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings are:

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

Detailed Results for Each State

Alabama

Alaska

Arizona

Arkansas

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Delaware

Florida

Georgia

Hawaii

Idaho

Illinois

Indiana

Iowa

Kansas

Kentucky

Louisiana

Maine

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

Minnesota

Mississippi

Missouri

Montana

Nebraska

Nevada

New Hampshire

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

North Carolina

North Dakota

Ohio

Oklahoma

Oregon

Pennsylvania

Rhode Island

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Texas

Utah

Vermont

Virginia

Washington

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Wyoming

Previous Editions of the Annual Highway Report

20th Annual Highway Report by David T. Hartgen

19th Annual Highway Report by David T. Hartgen

18th Annual Highway Report by David T. Hartgen

17th Annual Highway Report by David T. Hartgen

Attachments

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.

Adrian Moore

Adrian Moore, Ph.D., is vice president of policy at Reason Foundation, a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. Moore leads Reason's policy implementation efforts and conducts his own research on topics such as privatization, government and regulatory reform, air quality, transportation and urban growth, prisons and utilities.