Study ranks state highway systems by road conditions, safety, and cost-effectiveness

Study finds America’s highway system is incrementally improving in almost every category

November 18, 2021 / 2 minute read
Study ranks state highway systems by road conditions, safety, and cost-effectiveness
Image: Reason Foundation

Reason Foundation today released its Annual Highway Report, which measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories.

According to the report, the states of North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, and North Carolina have the most cost-effective highway systems. New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York have the worst combination of highway performance and cost-effectiveness, the study finds.

The categories covered in the study include urban and rural pavement condition, deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, spending per mile, and administrative costs per mile of highway.

Nationally, the study finds America’s highway system is incrementally improving in almost every category. However, a 10-year average indicates the nation’s highway system problems are concentrated in the bottom 10 states and, despite spending more money, these worst-performing states are finding it difficult to improve.

For example, 43% of the urban arterial primary mileage in poor condition is in six states—California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, and Rhode Island. Approximately 25% of the rural interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states (Alaska, Colorado, and Washington). While a majority of states reduced their percentages of structurally deficient bridges, five states—Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania—still report more than 15% of their bridges as deficient.

For total spending, three states—Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey—spent more than $250,000 per lane-mile of highway. In contrast, five states—Missouri, South Carolina, West Virginia, North Dakota, and South Dakota—spent less than $30,000 per mile of highway.

“States need to ensure their highway spending produces safer roads, smoother pavement, fewer deficient bridges, and less traffic congestion," Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report, said in a statement. "The states with the best overall rankings maintain better-than-average highways with relatively efficient spending per mile."

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SOURCE: Reason Foundation

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