Virginia's highways top study by libertarian think tank; Alaska's are last

Updated Apr 21, 2023
Map of the U.S.
Reason Foundation

This year's edition of an annual study of the nation's highways and bridges finds Virginia's rank first for overall performance and cost-effectiveness, while Alaska's ranks last.

The 27th Annual Highway Report  by the Reason Foundation says Virginia earned its ranking thanks to "good rural pavement conditions, low fatality rates, a relatively small percentage of deficient bridges, and low highway costs."

North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Connecticut round out the top five in the report's rankings. 

The report says Alaska’s highways rank last in the nation due to "high fatality rates and poor urban and rural pavement conditions." The bottom five include New York (49th),  (48th), California (47th), and Washington (46th).

Using data from 2020 and 2021, the Reason Foundation’s annual report examines every state in 13 categories, including urban and rural pavement conditions, urban and rural highway fatality rates, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, and state highway spending on capital and maintenance projects.

Nationally, the study finds that 21 states improved the condition of their roads and bridges in 2020, the most recent year with complete data available. Highway spending was slightly lower in 2020 than in 2019 due to reduced expenditures in three categories: capital and bridge spending, highway maintenance, and administrative costs.  

National urban and rural fatality rates rose, and pavement conditions deteriorated on the country’s rural Interstate highways and urban arterial roads, according to the report. America’s local roads are in especially bad shape, the report says. 

A statement from the foundation said, "The good news is that overall urban Interstate pavement conditions improved, and a smaller percentage of the country’s bridges were graded as structurally deficient. Urban traffic congestion was also down in 2020, but significant reductions in travel due to the COVID-19 pandemic were responsible for that decrease. 

Overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings of state highway systems  

  1. Virginia
  2. North Carolina
  3. Tennessee
  4. Georgia
  5. Connecticut
  6. South Carolina
  7. Kentucky
  8. Florida
  9. North Dakota
  10. Utah
  11. Missouri
  12. Minnesota
  13. Arkansas
  14. New Hampshire
  15. Alabama
  16. Wyoming
  17. Ohio
  18. Mississippi
  19. Texas
  20. Massachusetts
  21. Nevada
  22. Kansas
  23. Indiana
  24. Maryland
  25. Montana
  26. Nebraska
  27. Michigan
  28. South Dakota
  29. Illinois
  30. Arizona
  31. Iowa
  32. Maine
  33. Wisconsin
  34. Idaho
  35. Delaware
  36. New Mexico
  37. Oregon
  38. Vermont
  39. West Virginia
  40. Louisiana
  41. Pennsylvania
  42. Rhode Island
  43. Colorado
  44. New Jersey
  45. Oklahoma
  46. Washington
  47. California
  48. Hawaii
  49. New York
  50. Alaska

In describing itself on its website, the foundation says, "(The) Reason Foundation advances a free society by developing, applying, and promoting libertarian principles, including individual liberty, free markets, and the rule of law. We use journalism and public policy research to influence the frameworks and actions of policymakers, journalists, and opinion leaders."