Alaska Has America’s Worst Roads

Print Email

With its long highways, the largest state by square mileage and weather fluctuations, Alaska has the nation’s worst roads. This is according to the 22nd Annual Highway Report from the Reason Foundation.

The calculations for the ratings are complex:

The Annual Highway Report ranks state highway systems on cost-effectiveness and quality. Since states have different budgets, highway system sizes, traffic patterns and geographical circumstances, their comparative performance depends on both system performance and the resources available. To determine relative performance, state highway system budgets (per mile of responsibility) are compared with system performance, state by state. States with high ratings typically have better-than-average highway system conditions—low numbers of deficient bridges, and smooth pavement conditions—along with relatively low per-mile expenditures on metrics such as administrative costs.

Practical examples are easier to understand.

South Carolina is atop the Annual Highway Report’s overall cost-effectiveness ratings for the first time since 1995. South Carolina has been a consistent top performer, ranking in the top 10 since 2003. South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska and Maine round out the top five in the overall rankings. While smaller, more-rural states make up the top five, several large urban states (Ohio—9th, Missouri—12th, North Carolina—15th, and Texas 19th) are ranked in the top 20 overall.

At the bottom of the overall rankings are Alaska, New Jersey, Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. While most states deliver a high-quality road network cost effectively, several states have major state highway system performance problems:

Half (50%) of the nation’s rural Interstate mileage in poor condition can be found in just five states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Washington and Indiana.

Almost half (48%) of the country’s urban Interstate mileage rated in poor condition is in five states: California, New York, Texas, Michigan and Louisiana.

Over half (54%) of the rural primary mileage in poor condition is in five states: Alaska, Iowa, Minnesota, Texas and Wisconsin.

Traffic congestion in eight states (New Jersey, New York, California, Virginia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois and Washington) causes over 50 hours of delay annually per auto commuter.

Although bridge conditions are steadily improving, six states (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Hawaii) report more than one-third of their bridges as deficient.

Fatality rates continue to improve, but four states (South Carolina, Mississippi, West Virginia and Montana) have fatality rates greater than 1.5 per 100 million vehicle-miles.

Four states (West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Vermont) report that more than one-third of their rural principal arterial roads have narrow lanes that maybe unsafe for today’s vehicles. A widening performance 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.

While the survey is useful, it will not fulfill what should be its major contribution, which is to get more money spent on the national infrastructure.