Washington’s state highway system is ranked 24th in the nation
in overall performance and efficiency in the latest Annual Highway
by Reason Foundation. That’s up significantly from 33rd in the last
Reason Foundation is a nonprofit libertarian research organization based in Los Angeles.
The report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories. Washington spends slightly more per mile on its highways than the national average, at $176,786 per mile. Here’s how Washington, which has the 12th-largest state highway system at 17,281 miles, fared. The numbers are from 2009, the most recent year for which full spending statistics were available.
Category Data Rank
Capital-Bridge Disbursements per Mile $99,814 32
Maintenance Disbursements per Mile $36,260 38
Administrative Disbursements per Mile $11,685 24
Total Disbursement per Mile $176,786 33
Rural Interstate Percent Poor Condition 0 1
Rural Other Principal Arterial Percent Poor .05 7
Urban Interstate Percent Poor 2.35 23
Urban Interstate Percent Congested 32.26 14
Rural Arterial Percent Narrow Lanes 27.11 47
Percent of Deficient Bridges 25.80 32
Fatality Rate 0.87 8
Overall Performance 0.95 24
Having recently completed a trip through Eastern Washington, I
find the top ranking in rural interstate pavement surprising. We
were driving a Ford cargo van, and though it was new, it might’ve
been part of the problem. The front end bounced around so much it’d
lose contact with the road.
To make matters worse, the van was a big sail. The wind kicked up. The sky was brown. I thought it was a forest fire. But as we got closer, it was dirt clouds blown up from the fields. Dropping down the hill to cross the Columbia River, we were nearly blown off the bridge at Vantage.
Nationwide, Americans are driving on slightly smoother roads, crossing fewer deficient bridges and spending less time stuck in traffic jams, according to the report. There was small improvement in every category except pavement condition on rural arterial roads.
“It’s hard to believe it when you hit a pothole or see a bridge in Washington collapse, but the nation’s roads are getting better,” said David Hartgen, author of the study and emeritus transportation professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. “There are still several states struggling and plenty of problem areas. But you can make the case that overall America’s roads and bridges have never been in better shape.”
North Dakota has the country’s top-ranked state-controlled road system, followed by Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana. Alaska’s road system was the lowest quality and least cost-effective, followed by Rhode Island, Hawaii, California, New Jersey and New York.
Washington jumped the second-most spots, behind Vermont.
New Jersey spends $1.2 million per mile on its state-controlled highways, nearly twice as much as the $679,000 per mile of the next biggest-spending state — California. South Carolina spends the least, just $31,000 per mile.
Massachusetts had the lowest fatality rate while Montana had the highest.