Special Report

States That Are Falling Apart

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39. Montana
> Roadway in poor condition: 18.4% (24th lowest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 7.4% of bridges (23rd highest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 77 (2.1 per 100 miles of track — 9th fewest out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $827 (11th highest)

Montana is one of the least densely populated states, and partially as a result, it has some of lowest roadway congestion in the country. More limited road usage means less wear and tear on road surfaces, and in Montana, just 18.4% of roadway is in poor condition compared to 21.8% of roadway nationwide.

Railway in the state also appears to be in relatively good condition. There were 77 train derailments documented in Montana from 2015 to 2019, or 2.1 for every 100 miles of track — less than half the national average of 4.8 derailments for every 100 miles.

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38. North Dakota
> Roadway in poor condition: 7.8% (6th lowest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 10.8% of bridges (9th highest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 60 (1.8 per 100 miles of track — 7th fewest out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $2,107 (2nd highest)

States with long and harsh winters often have more roadway in poor condition as freezing and thawing can contribute to cracks and potholes in asphalt surfaces. Despite its location along the Canadian border, North Dakota’s roads are in relatively good shape, with just 7.8% of total roadway considered to be in poor condition, the sixth lowest share among states.

The state’s better road conditions are partially attributable to greater maintenance spending. North Dakota spends $1.2 billion on its highways annually, or $2,107 per driver, more than every other state except Alaska.

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37. Alaska
> Roadway in poor condition: 21.1% (25th highest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 9.7% of bridges (13th highest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 3 (0.6 per 100 miles of track — 2nd fewest out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $2,364 (the highest)

Despite relatively low usage as evidenced by the lack of congestion, and despite the greatest highway spending per driver of any state, the share of roadway in Alaska in poor condition is closely in line with the average share nationwide, at 21.1% compared to 21.8%, respectively. The state’s high maintenance spending and limited deterioration due to low usage are likely outweighed by harsh winters in the state, as freezing and thawing cycles often lead to cracks and potholes in asphalt.

Broken tracks are the most common cause of a train derailment, and there were only three train derailments in Alaska between 2015 and 2019 — suggesting that the state’s railway is in better shape than tracks nationwide.

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36. Kansas
> Roadway in poor condition: 14.5% (17th lowest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 5.2% of bridges (17th lowest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 199 (4.3 per 100 miles of track — 24th fewest out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $591 (24th lowest)

In Kansas, 5.2% of bridges are in need of replacement or repair, a smaller share than the 7.6% share of bridges nationwide. This is a marked improvement that follows a decade-long, $8 billion transportation infrastructure project known as T-WORKS, which repaired or replaced hundreds of bridges across the state. Many of the bridges in the state that are still structurally deficient fall under the purview of local governments.

Roads in the state are also in relatively good shape. Just 14.5% of roadway across Kansas is in poor condition, compared to 21.8% of roadway nationwide.

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35. Alabama
> Roadway in poor condition: 11.8% (12th lowest)
> Structurally deficient bridges: 4.3% of bridges (9th lowest)
> Locomotive derailments from 2015-2019: 174 (5.3 per 100 miles of track — 13th most out of 49 states)
> State highway spending per licensed driver: $433 (10th lowest)

Alabama is one of only 13 states where less than 5% of all bridges are in need of replacement or repair. Additionally, just 11.8% of roadway in the state is in poor condition, nearly half the 21.8% national share.

More parts of Alabama’s railroad infrastructure may be in need of repair, however. Broken tracks are the most common cause of derailments, and there were 174 documented derailments in Alabama from 2015 to 2019, or 5.3 for every 100 miles of track, more than in all but a dozen other states.