The Condition of Washington’s Highways Is Among the Worst in the Nation, a Recent Study Shows

Despite the low ranking, the state’s share of federal highway funding falls well below the national average
Updated: Thu, 07/11/2019 - 13:40
 
 
  • Despite the low ranking, the state’s share of federal highway funding falls well below the national average

Washington ranks among the 10 states with the worst road conditions, with some 15% of its federal highways, or 1,012 miles of freeway, deemed to be in poor condition as of last year, according to a study released by Autoinsurance.org, an online auto-insurance resource.

The study, which is based on an assessment of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funding and road-condition data, ranks Washington as the country’s ninth worst state for highway conditions, just ahead of No. 8 Wisconsin, with 17% of its federal highway system in poor condition, or 1,819 miles.

The top five states for the worst highway conditions, in descending order, are Rhode Island, 38%; Massachusetts, 28%; New Jersey, 26%; and California, 25%.

“Car safety has dramatically increased in the last few decades, but thousands of people still find themselves in motor-vehicle crashes every year,” the Autoinsurance.org report notes. “In fact, 34,247 fatal car accidents took place in 2017, and it’s safe to assume that roads in disrepair certainly didn’t add to their safety.”

On a brighter note, the analysis found that total funding for U.S. highways provided through the FHWA Highway Trust Fund hit a 10-year high last year, at $45 million, or $10,800 per mile. That’s up from a low point over the 10-year period of $39.1 million ― notched in 2015.

The Autoinsurance.org analysis found that generally states with poorer road conditions receive more FHWA funding, but that relationship isn’t ironclad.

“Connecticut, for example, had a fairly average number of highways in poor condition, at 14%. Nevertheless, the state had an unusually high amount of funding, at $24,900 per mile [in 2017, the most recent state-level data available],” the study notes. “Meanwhile, Massachusetts had the second-worst highways and not a lot of funding to work with ― only $17,600 per mile.

In fact, the national funding expansion in recent years doesn’t appear to have helped Washington very much, as in 2017 it received only $10,100 per mile of highway from the FHWA. That’s well below the national average of $12,400 per mile and on par with South Carolina, where only 7% of highways are deemed in poor condition, compared with 15% in Washington. 

Other states with better road conditions than Washington, such as Delaware, Connecticut, Maryland and Florida, also received far more funding in 2017 than Washington ― ranging from $16,500 per mile in Florida to $26,500 per mile in Delaware, according to the study. Florida ranked as the third best state for good highway conditions, with 80% of its freeways deemed in good condition, yet its highway funding far eclipses Washington, which has the ninth-worst road conditions nationally.

A total of 17 states with better highway conditions received more FHWA funding than Washington in 2017, the study shows. Overall, 10% of U.S. highways are deemed to be in poor condition, with a strong rural/urban divide. The share of poor roads in the nation’s urban areas was at 20%, the study shows, compared with 6% in rural areas.

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