As Americans hit the road for the Fourth of July holiday, they’ll be driving on slightly smoother roads, crossing fewer deficient bridges and spending less time stuck in traffic jams according to right/libertarian leaning think tank the Reason Foundation and its new Annual Highway Report. 

It found that nationwide there was small progress in every category except for pavement condition on rural arterial roads. These improvements were achieved at a time when per-mile expenditures dropped slightly. Despite receiving stimulus funding from the federal government in 2009, spending on state roads decreased slightly, by 0.6%, in 2009 compared to 2008.

“It’s hard to believe it when you hit a pothole or see a bridge in Washington collapse, but the nation’s roads have been 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 progress continues to be made.”

Among the states plagued with problems are New Jersey and California. New Jersey spends $1.2 million per mile on its state-controlled roads. That’s nearly twice as much as the $679,000 per mile that the next biggest spending state, California, spends. North Carolina, home to the nation’s largest state highway system, spends $44,000 per mile on its roads. South Carolina spends just $31,000, the lowest per mile rate in the nation. (A complete of state rankings is below)

The study measures the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates, urban traffic congestion, deficient bridges, unsafe narrow lanes, traffic fatalities, total spending per mile of state roads and administrative costs per mile. The study’s rankings are based on data that states reported to the federal government for 2009, the most recent year with full spending statistics available.

More than 16% of urban Interstate pavement in California and New Jersey is in poor condition. Only Hawaii ranks worse, with 27% of its urban Interstate pavement rated as poor.

Not only are California’s Interstates full of potholes, they are also jammed, with 80% of the state’s urban Interstates are congested. Minnesota has the next highest percentage of gridlocked Interstates, with 78% of urban Interstates deemed congested.

In terms of overall road conditions and cost-effectiveness, North Dakota has the country’s top ranked state-controlled road system, followed by Kansas, Wyoming, New Mexico and Montana.

Alaska’s state-controlled road system is the lowest quality and least cost-effective in the nation. Rhode Island ranked 49th, Hawaii slightly better at 48th and California coming in at 47th. New Jersey registered 46th while New York was 45th.

Vermont’s roads showed the most improvement in the nation, improving from 42nd in the previous report to 28th in the new overall rankings. New Hampshire at 27th and Washington at 24th both improved nine spots in the rankings.

Minnesota system plummeted 17 spots in the rankings, from 25th to 42nd and Delaware dropped nine spots to 20th.

Massachusetts had the lowest traffic fatality rate, while Montana had the highest.

Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report 
Overall Performance and Cost Effective Rankings

1. North Dakota 

2. Kansas 

3. Wyoming 

4. New Mexico 

5. Montana 

6. Nebraska 

7. South Carolina 

8. Missouri 

9. South Dakota 

10. Mississippi 

11. Texas 

12. Georgia 

13. Oregon 

14. Kentucky 

15. Virginia 

16. Nevada 

17. Idaho 

18. New Hampshire 

19. North Carolina 

20. Delaware 

21. Tennessee 

22. Indiana 

23. Arizona 

24. Washington 

25. Ohio 

26. Utah 

27. Alabama 

28. Vermont 

29. Maine 

30. Michigan 

31. Wisconsin 

32. West Virginia 

33. Iowa 

34. Illinois 

35. Louisiana 

36. Arkansas 

37. Florida 

38. Oklahoma 

39. Pennsylvania 

40. Maryland 

41. Colorado 

42. Minnesota 

43. Massachusetts 

44. Connecticut 

45. New York 

46. New Jersey

47. California 

48. Hawaii 

49. Rhode Island 

50. Alaska