Editor's Note: Story has been updated with response from Oklahoma Department of Transportation.
ENID, Okla. — Oklahoma’s highway system ranks 41st in the nation in overall cost-effectiveness and condition, according to the Annual Highway Report published last week by Reason Foundation.
The ranking is down eight spots from the previous report, where Oklahoma ranked 33rd overall, and the state now ranks behind Texas, Kansas, Missouri and other neighbors.
In safety and performance categories, Oklahoma ranks 38th in overall fatality rate, 42nd in structurally deficient bridges, 41st in urban Interstate pavement condition and 36th in rural Interstate pavement condition.
On spending, Oklahoma ranks 37th in total spending per mile and 33rd in capital and bridge costs per mile.
“To improve in the rankings, Oklahoma needs to lower its percentage of structurally deficient bridges, improve its urban Interstate pavement condition and reduce its urban fatality rate,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author of the Annual Highway Report and assistant director of transportation at Reason Foundation.
Compared to nearby states, the report finds Oklahoma’s overall highway performance is worse than Kansas (ranks 6th), Missouri (ranks 3rd), Texas (ranks 23rd), Arkansas (32nd) and Colorado (ranks 36th).
Oklahoma’s best rankings are in urban area congestion (15th) and rural fatality rate (26th). Oklahoma’s worst rankings are maintenance disbursements per mile (46th) and structurally deficient bridges (42nd).
Oklahoma’s state-controlled highway mileage makes it the 19th largest highway system in the country.
Using data states submitted to the federal government, Reason Foundation’s 24th Annual Highway Report measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 13 categories, including pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates, deficient bridges, traffic fatalities, administrative costs and spending per mile on state roads.
North Dakota ranks first in the Annual Highway Report’s overall performance and cost-effectiveness rankings for the second year in a row. Virginia and Missouri, two of the 20 most populated states in the country, are second and third in overall performance and cost-effectiveness. Maine and Kentucky round out the top five states.
The highway systems in New Jersey (50th), Alaska (49th), Rhode Island (48th), Hawaii and Massachusetts rank at the bottom of the nation in overall performance and cost-effectiveness.
The full Annual Highway Report, complete rankings in each category, and historical data from previous editions, are available here: https://reason.org/policy-study/24th-annual-high way-report/ and https://reason.org/wp-content/uploads/24th-annu al-highway-report-2019.pdf.
Oklahoma’s Complete Results:
• Overall Rank (*see explanation below): #41
• Overall Rank in Previous Report: #33
Ranking in Each Category
• Total Disbursements per Mile - #37
• Capital-Bridge Disbursements per Mile - #33
• Maintenance Disbursements per Mile - #46
• Administrative Disbursements per Mile - #38
• Rural Interstate Percent in Poor Condition - #36
• Urban Interstate Percent in Poor Condition - #41
• Rural Other Principal Arterial Percent in Poor Condition - #37
• Urban Other Principal Arterial Percent in Poor Condition - #40
• Urban Area Congestion - #15
• Structurally Deficient Bridges, percent - #42
• Overall Fatality Rate - #38
• Rural Fatality Rate - #26
• Urban Fatality Rate - #42
Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s response to 2019 Reason Foundation annual highway report
“It’s very unfortunate that reports like this continue to cause confusion for the public,” said ODOT Public Information Manager Lisa Shearer-Salim. She offered the following responses to the annual highway report.
• While ODOT uses national studies and reports to help understand how Oklahoma’s transportation system is performing nationally, the unconventional methods the Reason Foundation uses in its reports have always been challenging to interpret and explain. This year’s report, specifically, has considerable issues that cause us to believe that there are major errors in the group’s analyses and possibly inverted models.
• ODOT definitely benchmarks and sets goals based on how its system ranks compared to other states so Oklahoma can be competitive nationally; however, the conclusion of this year’s report that cost-effectiveness is captured by comparing disbursements per mile to other states is puzzling, as it doesn’t take into consideration actual conditions of the highway, system size, available funding or specific needs in each state.
• For example, if a state is very frugal with spending or is located in a part of the nation with mild weather not requiring expensive repairs, it will appear to rank higher on cost-effectiveness, implying good conditions even if they don’t exist.
• This year’s report bases its conclusions on data submitted in 2016 (that was collected in 2014 or 2015), despite more recent data being readily available to the public. While it is perhaps a snapshot in time, it is nowhere near an accurate portrayal of the condition of the system as drivers are experiencing it today or even then, in this case.
• Often, these studies include data for off-system roads and bridges maintained by cities and counties, which skews states’ highway rankings. This year’s report implies that off-system information is not used, but then it presents bridge numbers that do, in fact, include local bridges when ranking the states.
• Oklahomans are well aware of the long-standing issues with the state’s transportation system that has suffered from decades of neglect and deterioration due to underfunding. Fortunately, major progress has been made, contrary to what this year’s report suggests.
— Bridges: The number of structurally deficient bridges on the highway system decreased to 132, or less than 2% of the total, in 2018. This places Oklahoma 13th in the nation in good bridges.
— Interstate pavement: Since 2003, ODOT has significantly rehabilitated or reconstructed more than 466 miles, or 70%, of total non-tolled interstate pavement. This places Oklahoma above average in interstate pavement conditions.
— Traffic safety: While ODOT continues to strive for zero fatalities, the number of highway fatalities has decreased since 2016 and remains below the national average.
View maps with the latest bridge and pavement conditions online through ODOT’s Map & Data Portal at https://okdot.maps.arcgis.com/home/index.html