States with the Worst Highway Performance

The state of the country’s highways is affected by numerous factors, including the climate, terrain, urbanization, truck traffic, age of the infrastructure, budget priorities, maintenance models, and more. Most US states do a great job at maintaining their infrastructure, including highways, in a cost-effective way. However, there is a big difference in the performance of these states and the states that are ranked the worst when it comes to highway performance.

The Annual Highway Report released by the Reason Foundation reveals the conditions of state highways, as well as their cost-effectiveness in various categories, including highway pavement conditions, structurally deficient bridges, fatality rates, area congestion, and more.

The report concluded that the state of New Jersey fared the worst when it came to overall highway performance, followed by Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, New York, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Washington, and Florida. Although the study found that the country’s highway systems were improving incrementally in almost all categories, the bulk of the problem is concentrated in these bottom 10 states, which, in spite, of spending more and more tax dollars every year, are finding it difficult to improve their highways for a decade.

Let’s take a look at the states that fared the worst in some of the major categories:

Rural Interstate Pavement Condition

The rural interstate consists of about four to six-lane highways that connect urban areas. Their pavement conditions can be determined by the roughness of the road surfaces. In 2019, 2% of rural interstate pavement was in poor condition.

Out of this, Alaska had the highest percentage of poor rural interstate conditions, with 8.17% of its mileage in poor condition. Colorado has 6.17% of its rural interstate mileage in poor condition, followed by Washington at 5.36%, South Carolina at 4.21%, and Indiana at 4.08%.

Urban Interstate Pavement Condition

The urban interstates are made up of major multi-lane highways in urban areas. In 2019, about 947 miles of urban interstates were rated poor as compared to the 1,003 miles of poor-conditioned highways in 2018. These figures have been derived out of the total 19,069 miles of urban interstates in the country.

The state of Hawaii was ranked as the worst when it came to the conditions of its urban interstate highways. It was followed by Louisiana, Delaware, and New Jersey, which reported a total of 11% mileage in poor condition, even though they only make 4.6% of the urban interstate mileage in the United States.

Urbanized Area Congestion

The urban congestion problem is mainly concentrated in a few major cities of a few states. From 2019 to 2020, the problem of traffic congestion on highways worsened in four states (New Jersey, Illinois, New York, and Michigan) and improved in 46.

On average, the average annual peak hours spent in urban traffic congestion across the US is 23.83 hours. In New Jersey, the number was increased incrementally to 86.14 hours; in Delaware to 75.29 hours; in Illinois to 64.01 hours, New York to 53.60 hours; and in Michigan to 42.07 hours.

Structurally Deficient Bridges

In the 2020 report, 45,861 highway bridges were rated deficient out of the 614,490 bridges reported. In Rhode Island, 22.34% of bridges in the state were structurally deficient. West Virginia has 21% of its bridges in poor condition, while Iowa had 19.03% of deficient bridges, South Dakota has 17.02% of deficient bridges, and Pennsylvania has 15.28% of deficient bridges.

Overall Fatality Rate

The overall fatality rate on a highway is measured as fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles. In 2019, the fatality rate reduced from 1.13 in 2018 to 1.11. South Carolina, Mississippi, New Mexico, Kentucky, and Wyoming were determined to be the state with the highest fatality rates on highways.

South Carolina recorded a 1.73 fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles. It was followed by a 1.56 rate in Mississippi; a 1.53 rate in New Mexico; a 1.48 rate in Kentucky; and a 1.44 rate in Wyoming.

The Most Dangerous Highway in the United States

Based on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Teletrac Navman analyzed the fatality data on interstate highway systems between 2016 and 2019.

The data found that the most dangerous highway in the United States is Interstate 4 in Florida, which has 1.134 deaths per mile of highway in four years. The interstate highway comprises 132miles and runs between Tampa and Daytona Beach. The highway recorded a total of 150 fatalities between 2016 and 2019. Orlando was found to be the deadliest city along this highway as it recorded 11 fatalities during the four-year period.

Interstate 4 was followed by Interstate 45 that reported 0.913 deaths per mile of highway. The deadliest city along the highway was Houston, Texas with 92 deaths in four years. Route 192 in Florida recorded 0.867 deaths per mile of highway, with Kissimmee as its deadliest city with 10 deaths between 2016 and 2019.

Meanwhile, Interstate 17 in Arizona saw 0.707 deaths per mile, with Phoenix, Arizona being the deadliest city with 39 deaths over a four-year period.

Most Dangerous Time to Be On Interstate 4

According to the analysis, it was found that fatalities due to traffic happened the most in the month of March on I-4, particularly on the 11th day of the month. Sunday was the most common day of the week that saw fatalities and the fatal accidents usually occurred during the first hour of the day.

Bottom Line

Proper allocation of the funds can lead to better highway maintenance in a cost-effective way. The Biden’s government infrastructure bill, if it is allowed to pass, can grant the necessary funds for states to improve their systems. Every state has a process based on cost-benefit analysis, which can help improve the condition of their infrastructure. However, states that are less efficient cannot achieve the same rate of success even with government assistance because they require more money to complete a project.

Let’s hope that the state with the worst highway performance can create a better, more efficient infrastructure maintenance model that can help them improve their highway condition, potentially save on cost, and save lives as well.