Ranking the Best, Worst, Safest, and Most Expensive State Highway Systems — The 23rd Annual Highway Report

Policy Study

Ranking the Best, Worst, Safest, and Most Expensive State Highway Systems — The 23rd Annual Highway Report

Ranking each state's highway system in 11 categories, including highway spending, pavement and bridge conditions, traffic congestion, and fatality rates.

Overall Highway Performance Rank - Highway Report 2017 Placeholder
Overall Highway Performance Rank - Highway Report 2017

1 to 10 Very Good 11 to 20 Good 21 to 30 Average 31 to 40 Bad 41 to 50 Very Bad 

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report ranks the performance of state highway systems in 11 categories, including spending per mile, pavement conditions, deficient bridges, traffic congestion, and fatality rates.

North Dakota was the top-ranked state on performance and cost-effectiveness thanks to excellent scores on urban Interstate pavement condition (3rd overall), rural Interstate pavement condition (4th), urbanized area traffic congestion (4th), and maintenance disbursements per mile (3rd).  Kansas, South Dakota, Nebraska and South Carolina were the other states in top five of the overall rankings.

New Jersey ranked last, 50th, in overall performance and cost-effectiveness due to having the worst urban traffic congestion and spending the most per mile — $2 million per mile of state-controlled highway, more than double what Florida, the next highest state, spent per mile. Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii and Connecticut were also in the bottom five of the overall rankings.

This edition of the study is based on spending and performance data that state highway agencies submitted to the federal government for the year 2015, the most recent year with complete data available. The overall rankings are:

Overall Performance and Cost-Effectiveness Rankings
23rd Annual Highway Report (PDF)

Click a state name for detailed information about its results.

Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate. Wyoming had the least traffic congestion. And Alaska had the worst pavement condition. Here is how the states performed in each category:

Each State’s Highway Performance Rankings in Each Category
StateOverallTotal Disbursements per mile Capital & Bridge Disbursements per mileMaintenance Disbursements per mileAdministrative Disbursements per mileRural Interstate Pavement ConditionUrban Interstate Pavement ConditionRural Arterial Pavement ConditionUrbanized Area Congestion*Deficient BridgesFatality RatesNarrow Rural Arterial Lanes
Alabama17222313421103813263338
Alaska48203228214850288183519
Arizona164034204522154361411
Arkansas2981211736354411244645
California42434147463345464928141
Colorado31283133224722293582230
Connecticut46444231503548262744614
Delaware1927133532NA11237133423
Florida354949444152640114221
Georgia1819171543297184792729
Hawaii4745484133NA465020491240
Idaho7172225133212157173615
Illinois28414638291354671533
Indiana343137421943294325162032
Iowa15213321122439253341724
Kansas218211316106221562412
Kentucky1314141411982026404735
Louisiana37231622542404931394426
Maine231192346312412432142
Maryland40474446352626413932917
Massachusetts4448474549404135454611
Michigan323335302641194533331936
Minnesota2526303423393039412316
Mississippi11121541437233116194810
Missouri9531231691924302637
Montana668818172889144925
Nebraska410101821124231025289
Nevada202426164215331128273227
New Hampshire30322543381432303871
New Jersey5050505048314747504241
New Mexico241372441814101442346
New York45464549404434484848844
North Carolina1434791425722412941
North Dakota1152931041834153713
Ohio263438263628172723201834
Oklahoma 332927373938374218233820
Oregon213518273020203038293022
Pennsylvania413028322827363334452548
Rhode Island49424348473449322950231
South Carolina5211069211617215028
South Dakota346517133214531438
Tennessee121620192475932123139
Texas223839291123163444104018
Utah103619402781313193131
Vermont39252436373381637547
Virginia277524151242142361049
Washington433940392545273743351643
West Virginia3612682542172473950
Wisconsin38373617314644402151111
Wyoming8911920301136122451

Nearly half of the states (23 of 50) made progress compared to the previous report. Two states, Iowa and Delaware, improved their overall rankings by double digits, while six states had overall rankings that worsened by 10 or more spots:

  • Iowa improved 25 positions, from 40th to 15th in the overall rankings, as the state’s per mile spending increased somewhat but mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) improved considerably.
  • Delaware improved 18 spots, from 37th to 19th overall, as per mile spending decreased while mileage in poor condition (on urban Interstates and rural arterials) still improved.
  • Wisconsin fell 10 spots, from 28th to 38th, as per mile spending increased even as mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates) worsened.
  • West Virginia fell 11 spots, from 25th to 36th, as the condition of its bridges worsened, as did the condition of its rural Interstates and arterials.
  • New Mexico fell 13 spots, from 11th to 24th, as urban area congestion worsened and narrow rural arterial lane mileage increased.
  • Oklahoma fell 16 spots, from 17th to 33rd, as per mile spending increased even as mileage in poor condition (on urban and rural Interstates and rural arterials) worsened considerably.
  • Ohio fell 17 spots, from 9th to 26th, as per mile spending increased but the state’s road conditions worsened. Additionally, Ohio’s percentage of bridges in deficient condition jumped considerably as this year’s totals included functionally obsolete bridges, whereas in the last assessment, this information was not provided.
  • Maine fell 18 spots, from 5th to 23rd, as per mile spending increased even as the state’s road conditions (particularly urban Interstates) worsened.

A 10-year average of state overall performance data indicates that a few states are finding it difficult to improve and major system performance problems seem to be concentrated in these states. For example:

  • Over half, 53 percent, of the rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: Alaska, Colorado, New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Texas, California and Washington.
  • Over half, 54 percent, of the urban Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: California, New York, Texas, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
  • Almost half, 49 percent, of the rural primary mileage in poor condition is in just eight states: California, Alaska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and South Dakota.
  • Automobile commuters in nine states (New Jersey, California, New York, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Texas, Washington and Virginia) spend more than the national average of 35 hours annually stuck in peak-hour traffic congestion.
  • Although a majority of states saw bridge conditions improve, overall national bridge conditions are worsening, with seven states (Rhode Island, Hawaii, New York, West Virginia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut) now reporting more than one-third of their bridges as deficient.
  • After decades of improvement, fatality rates are increasing and seven states (South Carolina, Montana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Arkansas, Wyoming and Louisiana) now have fatality rates greater than 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled.
  • Four states (West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont) report that more than one-third of their rural principal arterial systems have lanes considered narrow.
View national trends and state-by-state performances by category:

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.

Baruch Feigenbaum is Assistant Director of Transportation Policy at Reason Foundation a non-profit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. Feigenbaum has a diverse background researching and implementing transportation issues including revenue and finance, public-private partnerships, highways, transit, high-speed rail, ports, intelligent transportation systems, land use, and local policymaking.

Spence Purnell is a policy analyst at the Reason Foundation, where he works on pension reform, Florida policy issues and economic development.