New Jersey, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, and New York have the worst combination of highway performance and cost-effectiveness, according to the Annual Highway Report published by Reason Foundation. The 26th annual report ranks the performance of state highway systems in 2019, with congestion and bridge condition data from 2020.
Clearly, the condition of U.S. roadways is a major factor when it comes to safety for drivers as well as pedestrians. Highways and byways are vital lifelines but they are frequently underfunded, and over 40% of the system is now in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers.
As traffic fatalities continue to rise, reaching a whopping 20,160 in the first half of 2021, improving our nation’s roads and bridges remains a top priority that can enhance safety for all road users.
The good news from the Reason Foundation report is that from 2018 to 2019, the U.S. continued a decades-long trend of steady, incremental improvement. The report shows America’s highway system improving in almost every category, and 30 out of 50 states are making progress.
That said some states are faring better than others — even as they continue to pour money into infrastructure improvements. A 10-year average of overall performance data indicates that the nation’s highway system performance problems are largely concentrated in the bottom 10 states. And despite spending more and more money, most of these worst performing states are finding it difficult to improve.
For example, approximately 43% of the urban arterial primary mileage in poor condition is in just six states — California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Nebraska, and Rhode Island. Moreover, approximately 25% of the rural Interstate mileage in poor condition is in just three states, specifically, Alaska, Colorado, and Washington.
And although a majority of states saw the percentage of structurally deficient bridges decline, five states — Rhode Island, West Virginia, Iowa, South Dakota, and Pennsylvania — report more than 15% of their bridges as structurally deficient.
The report also explores fatality rates finding that three states — South Carolina, Mississippi, and New Mexico — have overall fatality rates of 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher.
Drilling down, five states have rural fatality rates of 2.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. These include Hawaii, Nevada, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Alaska.
Moreover, urban fatality rates continue to worsen, with 11 states having urban fatality rates of 1.0 per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled or higher. These include New Mexico, Arizona, Florida, Alaska, Tennessee, Hawaii, Arkansas, Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas.