Reason Foundation Ranks State Highway Systems

The Reason Foundation has released its annual ranking of state highway systems across America. Noth Dakota, South Carolina, and Kansas top the list. New York, Alaska, and New Jersey get the golden pothole award.

Full report, press release, and data here. Interactive map where you can locate your state here.

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  • ||

    Not surprised to see Massachusetts so low.

    The state and federal money that would have been keeping up the road system as a whole has been shoveled into the Big Dig for a decade.

  • ||

    Is Maryland so bad it's unranked? I only looked at the interactive map, but I couldn't find it. I also didn't see DC on there.

  • SugarFree||

    A facile analogy of taxes as "payments" for "services":

    You order a hamburger, they charge you for a steak, and you get a room temperature tofu dog.

    Would you recommend that restaurant?

  • brian||

    Kid Handsome

    They labelled Delaware as Maryland! And they labelled New Jersey as Delaware...

  • ||

    In addition, we also have the wonderful state of "Noth Dakota" . . . that must be the home to all of Cheney's undisclosed locations.

  • Balsim||

    Having spent a lot of time driving on SC highways, I can't see how they are ranked as the 2nd best in the country. The streches of I-95 are some of the worst pavement I've seen in years.

  • ||

    Oh how proud I am to be from New York. At least we have the 6th lowest fatality rate... although, I guess that's not taking into account the fatalities of cars' suspensions.

  • M||

    SugarFree - Nice, and I would only emend to: You are ordered to receive a hamburger, etc.

  • ||

    I-90 in NY is the Thruway. Some of the nicest road I've ever driven. Always happy to pay the $2.00 from Rochester to Buffalo. Back in the days of 55mph speed limits, if you were doing 70 the state troopers would pass you by. No other law enforcement was allowed. Niagara to Syracuse can get some nasty winter weather. The big plows and salt keep the Thruway moving.

    I don't know if it's still true, but the Thruway authority also ran the locks and drawbridges on the Erie Canal.

  • ||

    As if one needed another reason to despise New Jersey.

  • ||

    Warren -
    I don't drive that stretch a lot myself, but while the tolls used to be used to maintain the roads (which, given how much winter weather they get, are pretty well cleared most of the time), much of the tolls are now used to fund other things that are under the control of the Thruway Authority, such as the Erie Canal.... who knows, but they certainly don't tell us much about it.

  • ||

    Balsim, Warren,

    This was a study of "state-owned roads and highways." Not the interstate system.

    Why the interstate system is in better shape in some states than in others is an interesting question, though.

  • ||

    It should also be noted that when the Thruway was built, they promised that the tolls would be used to pay-off the construction of the road, and once it was paid for, the tolls would be eliminated. Yeah, that never happened. They got used to having the funds.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    I'm surprised Californicate is not the worst. Still a shame at 44th worst because this is the state that invented the car culture and the freeway. California's roads were once the finest in the known world.

    I blame illegals. :-)

    Actually 90% of our budget goes to education, social services, and MediCal. That don't leave much for asphalt and bridge repair.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Worst, I mean absolute worst, highway I've ever driven is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And they have the cajones to actually charge people to use that thing.

  • ||

    Reinmoose,
    I remember back in the 80's there was some rumbling in the state legislature to do away with the tolls. I'm glad they didn't, the tolls are what kept the traffic down and the maintenance up. And a lottery tax (i.e. speeding tickets) free zone, as well I think. It's been a few years since I've been on it. I think they need to raise the tolls. It's been getting pretty crowded.

    Of course, as a good libertarian I'd prefer the roads be privately owned and operated.

  • Grotius||

    For perspective we should note that American roads are some of the world's finest (outside of Europe and Japan).

  • ||

    TWC:
    IMO, Pennsylvania has the worst roads because they are constantly under construction and are never completed. But those are the interstates, which aren't explored in this study. They also have the most over-developed road system I've ever seen, and many of their local roads resemble highways. Personally, I wouldn't want a concrete barrier running down the middle of a road in my town.

  • ||

    Warren: Agreed. Too bad Amtrak is a piece of shit along that corridor and still manages to be more expensive than driving with the tolls. I'm going to visit some friends in Rochester in a couple of weekends and I'm taking Amtrak to get there, despite the fact that it's more expensive than gas+tolls.. I try to figure in milage on my car, but I don't know how to assess that cost.

    whatever.

    Of course, as a good libertarian I'd prefer the roads be privately owned and operated.

    Bingo

  • ||

    Of course North Dakota is number one.

    There's like three old Chevys and a goat using the road...

  • ||

    "Worst, I mean absolute worst, highway I've ever driven is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And they have the cajones to actually charge people to use that thing."

    Amen to that. Among the worst 10 hours of my life were spent driving the PT in a 18' Uhaul packed to the gills.

    I remember when NM had bad roads and good schools. Then we got a libertarian gov who fixed the roads and let the schools go to shit. Now they seem to be doing pretty well with both at the same time. Can't imagine what's next.

  • ||

    Commonsewer:

    The Pa 'Pike is getting better, but only in the western part of the state where they've done a lot of recent construction. Eastern 'Pike still sucks.

  • LarryA||

    Oh how proud I am to be from New York. At least we have the 6th lowest fatality rate... although, I guess that's not taking into account the fatalities of cars' suspensions.

    Kind of hard to have a fatal accident if the cars can't move.

    I also didn't see DC on there.

    Rule of thumb. If it's "fifty states" D.C. won't be one of them.

    They labelled Delaware as Maryland! And they labelled New Jersey as Delaware...

    The New Jersey tag is in New York City harbor. All those dinky states run together.

    I thought it was really interesting that eight states; Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Missouri, West Virginia, and Kentucky, have more state highway miles than California.

  • ||

    Grotius,

    "For perspective we should note that American roads are some of the world's finest (outside of Europe and Japan)."

    So we beat what, Africa, South/Central America, and parts of Asia? Not bad for the richest country in the world.

  • ||

    That's because California has a huge amount of federal highway miles instead.

  • ||

    Worst, I mean absolute worst, highway I've ever driven is the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

    That's where I score the highest when I play Count the Deer Carcasses.

  • Grotius||

    Neu Mejican,

    And Antartica. I would guess European Russia and portions of Eastern Europe as well. ;)

  • M||

    I try to figure in milage on my car, but I don't know how to assess that cost.



    What won't I do for my friends at Reason!

  • ||

    I had a jazz history class at Pitt, in which the professor told me about his days on tour. (He actually played with Miles Davis once or twice)

    Apparently, the PA Turnpike was considered severely cursed in the minds of 60's-70's jazz musicians.

    He added that more jazz musicians died on that stretch than any other in the country (Often traveling the NY-Pittsburgh-Chicago circuit)

  • ||

    Joe

    Interstate highways are part of a State's highway system. They are just another class therein, with a different level of federal funding (usually about 95%) and with some criteria imposed by the Federal Highway Works Administration. They are still counted as part of the state's road inventory.

    Note that three of the eight categories that were rated applied to interstates.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Several people mentioned that federal interstates aren't in this study.

    California has a large number of highway miles that are jointly owned/financed by BOTH state and federal gvt.

    That was done to obtain federal highway money and if the Reason Study does not look at any road that is federally financed then there aren't any roads in California to look at. I mean the Pasadena Freeway morphed into I-110, Santa Ana/Golden State Freeways morphed into I-5, San Diego Freeway (which doesn't get within 75 miles of San Diego) became I-405. Etc.

    Almost every mile of freeway in California is a federal interstate by virtue of funding.

    They suck too. Just as badly. In fact, they're probably worse.

  • ||

    M -
    Thanks, but I guess I didn't articulate very well what I meant. I keep pretty good tabs of my car's MPG (especially easy on long trips), but I was trying to refer to how much the added milage/driving would add in maintenence costs on my car. Sometimes I use the standard mileage reimbursement rate, but that just seems so high ($0.485)

  • ||

    That was actually meant for joe not Joe.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Looks to me like the study does include the interstate highway system.

    From the study:

    In most states these [roads] are generally the interstates and other major U.S.-numbered and state numbered
    roads

  • ||

    Worst, I mean absolute worst, highway I've ever driven is the Pennsylvania Turnpike. And they have the cajones to actually charge people to use that thing.



    TWC, I concur. Driving the Penn. turnpike is a hours long flee/flight experience that leaves me physically, mentally and emotionally drained. Basically I'm scared shitless or pissed off the entire trip.

    BTW, I noticed my hone state of Michigan was rated below West Virginia and Arkansas. Not a surprise, but humbling nontheless.

  • ||

    "Gridlock isn't going away," said David T. Hartgen, Ph.D., the study's lead author.

    Gee, ya think? Is my Reason subscription money paying for this? I notice that Massachusetts has the safest highways and Montana the deadliest. "Live free or die"? Maybe that should be "Live free and die". I'm also underwhelmed by the fact that construction costs are cheaper in South Dakota than in Jersey. This study seems to be aiming at a "libertarian policies mean good highways" moral that I find damn near invisible. Shouldn't highways be privatized?

  • ||

    thanks for clearing that up TWC

  • ||

    Several people mentioned that federal interstates aren't in this study.



    As I noted above:

    "three of the eight categories that were rated applied to interstates."




    And:

    "Interstate highways are part of a State's highway system. They are just another class therein, with a different level of federal funding (usually about 95%) and with some criteria imposed by the Federal Highway Works Administration. They are still counted as part of the state's road inventory."

  • ||

    OOPS, looks like TWC already noticed.

  • SugarFree||

    M,

    I agree with that as well, but I was going for more of "I'd like to have a road to drive on, they tax me enough to build a four-lane highway, and I generally get a dirt path."

    If I'm going to have to eat here, I get to complain about the prices or the service, preferably both, but at a bare minimum one or the other.

    I think microlibertarianism (local level) is easier to explain to the regular folks than macro concepts like getting rid of the Dept. of Education (which, of course, I'd like to do as well.) If wanting to reduce taxes is written off as being "uncharitable," then I'd like to see the defense for poor service.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    JKP, the southerly freeway (70/76 ?) coming out of the 'Burgh is actually pretty good (or it was). One thing that struck me was the rest stops. They were clean and had TILE on the walls. Unheard of in our fair state.

    If you travel the I-10 across the desert the rest stops in Ca are ghastly. Cross into Az and they ain't great, but they're clean and usable. Same clientèle yet completely different states of cleanliness. Pun intended.

  • ||

    Alan -
    I think you're confusing two types of libertarians.
    You have the faux-libertarians who want their blessed holy roads to continue to be funded and maintained by the government, but they don't want any rules guiding how they drive, whether or not they wear their seatbelt, if they can talk on a cell phone, etc.
    Then you have the actual libertarians, who want the roads to be privatized. The private owner of the roads can develop rules of conduct as they see fit and enforce them with whatever fines or whatever they wanted.

  • ||

    What won't I do for my friends at Reason!



    The calculator desn't factor in depreciation of the auto. That is not good.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Is my Reason subscription money paying for this?

    I doubt if subscription money even covers the cost of printing the magazine. :-)

    Reason survives on donations. Lots of them, large and small.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Based on my so-far limited experience of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I'm a bit surprised that Texas roads ranked so well. Then again, it is monsoon season here (forget global warming, when the hell is someone going to do something about the weather in Texas?) and the poor drainage means I spend about a third of my time on the road hydroplaning (no fun in a Miata!)

    I can't say I was all that impressed with European roads, btw. Sure, the autobahn and non-German equivalents to our interstate highway system are kept in good repair, but try taking a scenic road trip off the autostrade in Italy sometime.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    RM, excellent points. I would point out, however, that there was a time when fuel taxes closely resembled a sort of user fee that was economically connected to driving. The more you drove the more you paid toward the cost of highways. Long haul truckers paid a lot of fuel taxes and those ghastly Volkswagens paid very little. A rough correlation between use and tax.

    That's not much true anymore although the fuel taxes do still make up a huge chunk of that three buck a gallon gas.

    The other problem with the fuel tax scenario is that it leaves localities out of the picture because only the state and feds get the money.

    BTW, I am a real libertarian, let's privatize the roads. Hear that? That's the sound of 300 million Americans LOL at my foolish remark.

  • ||

    Why the interstate system is in better shape in some states than in others is an interesting question, though.



    This is not particularly mysterious considering that like other state highways interstates are designed and built by State DOTs*. FHWA impose some design criteria to qualify for federal funds but other than cursory audits stay out of the picture.

    Add to that the question of the ability of local pols to bring home pork. So, is any one really surprised to see W Va so high in the rankings?



    *Most of the design and all of the construction is contracted out but the ultimate responsibility lies with the state DOT.

  • Grotius||

    D.A.R.,

    It depends on the country in question. Anyway, I wouldn't pick Italy as typical of Western Europe when it comes to local roads, etc.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Grotius,

    How many of them have you had extensive experience driving in?

  • ||

    TWC: If you're going to continue to support the government ownership of the roads, then you can't complain about the rules that they devise, the fact that some parts of the state/country get mountains more funding than others, what a shitty job they do at maintaining the roads, how long it takes them to do a project from time of conception to time of completion, etc. beyond the boundaries that Dan T. frequently reminds us of.. that it's a system of social contract, and the "right" or most effective policies aren't what get implemented.. the most popular ones do.

    Or were you not mocking my assertion that "real" libertarians support privatized roads?

  • ||

    Hmm, I guess I was thrown off by the phrase "state-owned roads and highways." So it's only local streets that weren't surveyed.

    TWC, that would probably explain the oddity of the California numbers. Lots of multi-lane superhighways, and lots of local surface streets, but relatively little in between. One ten lane limited access highway will have fewer linear miles than a mixed system of six-lane highways and smaller numbered routes, even if their capacity was the same.

  • ||

    That's the sound of 300 million Americans LOL at my foolish remark.

    Don't let the bastards wear you down TWC. That's the same laughter we heard when we suggested privatizing garbage.

  • Grotius||

    D.A.R.,

    Even if I had spent my whole life driving the highways and byways of Europe (which I haven't) I doubt that it would tell me much (particularly given my rather inaccurate guesses re: the the Reason map - I thought North Carolina roads would be ranked far higher for example).

    Anyway, I'd be interested to see any study that compares Japan, the U.S. and Europe.

  • ||

    With respect to the PA turnpike, it is interesting to note that at the time it was built it was considered to be an example of some of the best highway engineering ever.

    Today we have refined many of those criteria and observations of conditions on roads like the PA Tpk have helped.

    The problem is that the PA Tpk is stuck with its 1940 alignment and grade. Some improvements have been made to be sure, especially adding tunnels etc but there's not too much to be done beyond that. Right-of-Way acquisition costs are out of sight and in congest urban section it is pretty well impossible to add any ROW.

    Add to that the fact that sections of this road are built through some of the most rugged terrain in North America. I do not know this personally but I have been told that the Appalachains and the Alleghenies present a bigger barrier to road and rail construction than do the Rockies.

  • Grotius||

    Isaac Bartram,

    Every time I drive through PA it seems like major stretches of the interstate are under heavy construction.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Don't let the bastards wear you down TWC. That's the same laughter we heard when we suggested privatizing garbage.



    So, you're suggesting we let organized crime take over the roads and highways?

  • ||

    Issac -
    Good sir, you have been duped by the people of Pennsylvania. They talk up their state more than anyone I've ever seen. I went to school there and they were always "Isn't it so beautiful here?" and "Look at all the mountains," but in my own experiences they have less to brag about than most states.

    It is true that their system is probably older than most, but that doesn't really make any excuses for how bad it is. They're in the process of building Interstate 99, and it's just as hideous and shoddily constructed as the old ones.

    The traffic around Harrisburg is terrible, and mostly for 1 reason. They force all the traffic that is coming from the north and is taking 83-south to Baltimore to drive THROUGH Harrisburg to get there instead of bypassing it with a couple of miles of road. Not to mention you have to take 1-lane "exits" to stay on the same interstate you were already on. It's seriously messed up, and ugly.

  • Highway||

    Pennsylvania is famous for having miles and miles of roadway 'under construction', where one lane of two is blocked off by cones, cones, and more cones... but there are no workers to be seen. Then you'll pass 8 or 10 guys working on a 50-foot stretch. Then a couple more miles of cones until the other lane opens back up.

    Common jokes about PA roads.

    I'm not sure I agree with the ordering of the study, although it would probably mean I put more emphasis on some factors than others. It seems like the results are skewed less toward roadway condition than roadway congestion, meaning small states with big cities get dinged in the rankings no matter what, and states with huge expanses of nothingness get pushed up.

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Or were you not mocking my assertion that "real" libertarians support privatized roads?

    Not mocking you. Dead serious. Mocking the fact that not one person in America will take the idea of private roads seriously.

    We had one in my area. A 10 mile stretch of High Tech toll road on one of the most congested freeways in the state. It took years to bring it to fruition and Bob Poole (Beloved Founder of Reason) was instrumental in making it happen.

    Privately financed

    Congestion Priced to keep it flowing

    Free towing to get broken down cars off the road immediately

    Guess What? The locals, the media, and the politicians bitched and moaned and pissed and griped and agitated until finally the state bought it from the private owners.

    Prices went up

    Maint went down

    And now, everybody is dead silent.

    The good news is that the entire rest of the world is light years ahead of the US in private highway construction. Bob Poole has written extensively about it and his work is available at http://www.reason.org/poole.shtml

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    Don't let the bastards wear you down TWC. That's the same laughter we heard when we suggested privatizing garbage.

    Thanks Warren. :-)

    When I moved here we had five different garbage companies to choose from. Then the county decided that was inefficient and assigned us one. Of course, it wasn't the one I wanted and had been using for years and was quite happy with. No, it was Waste Mgmt, the worst run and largest company of it's kind in the US. Naturally, prices went up.

    Unfortunately, when garbage is privatized property taxes do not go down to reflect that the city isn't providing that service any longer. Course, the service is often better so I guess that's something.

  • ||

    Do any of those people actually, you know, FUCKING DRIVE in South Carolina? I'm guessing the roads are "cost effective" because they SUCK.

  • CoaC||

    So, you're suggesting we let organized crime take over the roads and highways?

    Yoos got a problem wid dat?

  • LarryA||

    Based on my so-far limited experience of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, I'm a bit surprised that Texas roads ranked so well.

    Dallas-Fort Worth roads are extremely congested and poorly maintained compared to the rest of Texas. I35 from Dallas to San Antonio is not much better. But get into the back country on state and U.S. highways and you can comfortably do 70mph for hours. I10 is a good road also.

    U.S. 281 from McAllen to Burkburnett is a really nice drive, but the highway goes to crap as you cross the Oklahoma border.

  • ||

    TWC:
    Sorry, I couldn't tell. Sometimes tone doesn't come across so well in typing. (this gets me into more situations than you know)

    Congestion pricing is the shiz-it. Unfortunately, then you get those loons who whine about how only the rich get to use the congestion-free roads, so therefore everyone should have to sit in 2 hours of traffic on their way to work. Unfortunately, these same people would advocate that more people use public transit. Ironically, if busses used the private congestion-priced roads, it would be more efficient. People could both pay less AND get places faster.
    Dim-wits

  • ||

    Well, no shit Alaska is number 49. This is the Dalton Highway and this is the Denali Highway. These are not "rural roads" these are two lane, major highways (though to be fair the Denali is closed in winter). Nothing saying about improving the road system, just an observation.

    But why is NY last??

  • The Wine Commonsewer®||

    RM, (this gets me into more situations than you know)

    Me too.

    Just can't see the smirk or the other visual cues that help communicate what is being said.

  • ||

    Idaho roads 10th? It is to laugh. The aptly (nick)named 'Goat Trail', supposedly connecting North Idaho to the southern part of the state, is a nightmare to drive. No wonder there have been several attempts to separate and form a new state. Our only real advantage is having fewer people attempting to travel our state North to South.

  • ||

    The problem with gas taxes is that so much of them are diverted into vanity light rail projects and other public transportation boondoggles that our roads aren't getting the attention they deserve. If we stopped wasting money on rail, which is worthless, we'd have plenty of money to improve and expand our road system.

  • ||

    Bob Smith,

    Or, we could stop wasting our money on roads, which are wasteful, and have plenty of money to improve and expand our rail system...

    =^0

  • ||

    Ahhh.
    Nothing like a Friday 69.

    =^Q
    Q^=

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