Utah ranks No. 9 nationally — up one spot this year — for the condition and cost-effectiveness of its state highway system.
That’s according to an annual study released Thursday by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank that promotes free markets. The report is based on federal data.
“Utah shows that efficient departments of transportation tend to have higher rankings. The state has long been considered an innovative DOT, winning several national awards for administration and creativity,” said Baruck Feigenbaum, lead author of the report.
He praised the Utah Department of Transportation for basing project priority and decisions on objective data about traffic and conditions, and for collaborating well with federal and local governments.
The study ranks each state highway system in 13 categories.
Utah’s best rankings are in urban arterial pavement condition (third) and the number of structurally deficient bridges (fifth). Its worst rankings are in maintenance disbursements per mile (40th) and its rural fatality rate (31st).
In other key safety and performance categories, it ranked ninth for its overall fatality rate, 20th in traffic congestion and 11th in urban interstate pavement condition. On spending, Utah ranks 31st in total spending per mile and 17th in capital and bridge costs per mile.
Utah’s state highway system mileage is the 39th largest in the nation.
Feigenbaum said the best way for Utah to climb in the rankings is to reduce the rate of traffic deaths.
Data showed more fatalities nationally in 2016 (the most recent year studied) than in any year since 2007.
As far as overall highway performance, Utah ranks better than Arizona (29th), Colorado (36th), Idaho (13th), Nevada 927th) and New Mexico (21st).
Atop the rankings nationally were North Dakota, Virginia, Missouri, Maine and Kentucky.
The states with the worst ratings were New Jersey, Alaska, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Massachusetts.
The study says that pavement condition on both urban and rural Interstates nationally are deteriorating, with the percentage of urban Interstate mileage in poor condition increasing in 29 of 50 states. One-third of the nation’s urban Interstate mileage that is in poor condition is concentrated in just five states: California, Delaware, Hawaii, Louisiana, and New York.
Traffic congestion nationally remains about the same from the previous report, with Americans spending an average of 35 hours a year stuck in traffic. Drivers in New Jersey, New York, California, Georgia and Massachusetts experience the longest delays due to urban traffic congestion in their metro regions.