Annual Report Reveals Best, Worst States for Highways

The nation’s top-performing, most cost-effective highways can be found in South Carolina, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Maine, according to Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report

The study finds the worst-performing, least cost-effective highway systems are in Alaska, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report tracks the performance of state-owned highway systems in 11 categories, including highway spending, pavement and bridge condition, traffic congestion and fatality rates. The study is based on spending and performance data that state highway agencies submitted to the federal government for 2013, the most recent year with complete data available.

The numbers show a widening performance gap emerging. Most states are making some small progress with their state highway systems but a group of states are struggling and failing to improve.

Nationally, pavement conditions in several categories worsened slightly, with the amount of urban Interstate pavement, rural Interstate pavement and rural arterial pavement in poor condition all increasing marginally.

The Annual Highway Report finds that some of the nation’s worst highway problems are concentrated in a few states. For example, almost half, 48 percent, of the country’s urban Interstate pavement in poor condition can be found in just five states: California, Louisiana, Michigan, New York and Texas. Likewise, half of the rural Interstate pavement in poor condition can be found in five states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Indiana and Washington.

On the positive side, the percentage of deficient bridges across the country are decreasing. However, six states – Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island – report that more than one-third of their bridges are still deficient or functionally obsolete.

Reducing traffic fatalities has been a long-term success story and just four states – Montana, Mississippi, South Carolina and West Virginia – reported fatality rates greater than 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles travelled.

Due to changes in the Federal Highway Administration’s reporting methods, traffic congestion figures in the new report aren’t comparable to previous editions.

Reason Foundation’s latest Annual Highway Report finds commuters in more than 40 states, including such unexpected places such as Idaho and North Dakota, now waste at least 20 hours a year stuck in traffic. Drivers in more than 20 states suffer annual congestion delays of at least 40 hours per year, meaning they lose the equivalent of a full workweek each year to traffic jams. And traffic congestion is so bad in eight states – California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Washington – that it causes more than 50 hours of delay annually per auto commuter in those states.

Some states significantly improved in the report’s overall cost-effectiveness rankings this year. Maine jumped from 16th into the top five. Utah made the biggest gains, moving from from 29th in the previous edition to 13th overall. And Idaho improved 14 spots, from 30th to 16th.

In contrast, Wyoming, the top ranked state in the previous report, dropped to 8th due to middle-of-the-road rankings in urban Interstate pavement condition (32nd), rural arterial pavement condition (30th), and deficient bridges (30th). Iowa plummeted from 18th in the previous report to 40th overall due in part to poor rankings in rural arterial pavement condition (48th) and urban Interstate pavement condition (46th). And Wisconsin fell 13 spots, from 15th to 28th overall.

The size of state highway systems varies tremendously. The smallest systems are in Hawaii (1,016 state-controlled miles) and Rhode Island (1,139 miles). The largest state highway systems belong to Texas (80,490 state-controlled miles) and North Carolina (80,453 miles).

In total, the 50 states disbursed about $131.2 billion for state-owned roads in 2013, which was just under the $132.1 billion spent in 2012. Total state spending on maintenance, capital and bridge disbursements, and administrative costs all decreased slightly in 2013.

There is large variance in the amount of money states spend on their highways. South Carolina and West Virginia spent less than $37,000 per state-controlled mile. In contrast, according to data the state submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), New Jersey spent $2,186,447 per mile in 2013 on state highways, far more than the next highest state – Florida, which spent $741,292 per mile.

State highway administrative costs, usually thought of as office costs, also differ significantly from state to state. On average, states spent $10,000 on administrative costs for each mile of road they control. The lowest administrative spending was in Kentucky, at just $1,107 per mile. In contrast, Connecticut spent $83,282 and Hawaii spent $77,962 per mile on administrative costs.

The overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings in Reason Foundation’s 22nd Annual Highway Report:

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

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