A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Study says Kentucky’s highway system ranks 4th nationally in road condition, cost effectiveness

Kentucky’s highway system ranks 4th in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report published by Reason Foundation.

The state’s excellent rural and urban arterial road quality contributes to Kentucky’s top 5 placement in the Annual Highway Report, which ranks every state highway system in 13 categories.

In safety and performance categories, Kentucky ranks 47th in overall fatality rate, 29th in structurally deficient bridges, 23rd in traffic congestion, 23rd in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 21st in rural Interstate pavement condition. Kentucky ranks in the top 30 of all states in 11 of the 13 categories. 

Kentucky spends $36,205 per mile of state-controlled road, ranking 12th in total spending per mile (meaning 38 states spend more per mile). Kentucky’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 8th largest highway system in the country.

Kentucky drivers spend 7.91 hours stuck in traffic congestion each year, ranking 23rd nationally.

Compared to nearby states, Kentucky’s overall highway performance is better than Tennessee (ranks 10th overall) Ohio (24th) and Indiana (32nd) but worse than Virginia (2nd) and Missouri (3rd).

Kentucky’s fatality rate is about 10% higher than Tennessee’s rate and about 30% higher than peer state Missouri’s rate.
“To improve in the rankings, Kentucky needs to reduce its overall fatality rate and urban fatality rate. Both are above the average,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “While it may be challenging for Kentucky to have a fatality rate as low as a state like Massachusetts, the state can improve from its current bottom five ranking.”

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-controlled highways in 13 categories, including pavement and bridge conditions, traffic fatalities, and spending per mile. The report’s data is primarily from 2019, but the traffic congestion data is from 2020 and reflects some of the drop in volume due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

See Kentucky’s detailed results here.

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