Traffic Congestion Getting Worse on State Highways
Nearly 52% of U.S. urban Interstates are now congested, according to the Reason Foundation’s 16th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems. Released in Los Angeles last month, the report comes with an interactive map showing rankings for all 50 states and basic data for each state.
“Gridlock isn’t going away,” said David T. Hartgen, the study’s lead author. “States are going to have to prioritize and direct their transportation money to projects specifically designed to reduce congestion if we are going to reverse this troubling trend.”
The study measures the performance of state-owned roads and highways from 1984 to 2005 in 12 different categories, including traffic fatalities, congestion, pavement condition, bridge condition, highway maintenance and administrative costs to determine each state's ranking and cost-effectiveness.
Among the study’s findings:
- Drivers in California, Minnesota, New Jersey and North Carolina are stuck in the worst traffic, with more than 70% of urban Interstates in those states qualifying as congested.
- The 10 states with the worst highway system performance, starting with the worst, are: New Jersey, Alaska, New York., Rhode Island, Hawaii, Massachusetts, California, Alabama, Michigan and Florida.
- The 10 states with the best performance are North Dakota, South Carolina, Kansas, New Mexico, Montana, Georgia, Wyoming, Oregon, Nevada and Idaho.
- Traffic fatality rates rose slightly. Massachusetts reported the lowest fatality rate — 0.79 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, while Montana’s roads were the deadliest, with 2.256 fatalities per 100 million miles. The national average was 1.453, up slightly from 1,440 in 2004.
- The percentage of roads in “poor condition” fell sharply for both interstate highways and major rural roads. Since 1998, the percentage of poor urban interstate mileage has been reduced by 31%. The number of deficient bridges eligible for federal repair dollars also fell slightly in 2005.
Hartgen noted that the big states scoring well in highway performance have been able to achieve needed improvements and adequate maintenance at relatively low costs.