Rhode Island improves in annual highway report

Ocean State jumps seven spots from last year

By: - April 19, 2023 4:36 pm

I-95 South in Providence. (Janine L. Weisman/Rhode Island Current)

Rhode Island is once again ranked near the bottom of states in highway performance and cost-effectiveness. Although, the Ocean State’s reputation is rising.

According to the 27th edition of the Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report, Rhode Island ranks 42nd in the nation — a seven-spot improvement from the previous report, where the state ranked 49th.

The report by the Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank ranks state highways through categories including urban and rural pavement conditions, highway fatality rates, traffic congestion, structurally deficient bridges, and state  spending on capital and maintenance projects.

Rhode Island has worst roads in nation, new survey finds


Information is based on spending and performance data submitted by state highway agencies to the federal government from 2020 and 2021.

Rhode Island ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in four of the report’s 13 metrics. Most notably, the Reason Foundation notes that “the state’s arterial pavement and bridge quality are disproportionately poor.”

A total of 4.25% of Rhode Island’s rural arterial pavement is in poor condition, 5.4 times more than Connecticut and 1.9 times more than peer state New Jersey’s percent. About 30% of the state’s urban arterial pavement is in poor condition — three times more than Connecticut and 1.6 times more than New Jersey.

Better than New Jersey traffic

Ocean State drivers also spend 32.7 hours in traffic annually, 1.1 times more than Connecticut drivers but less than New Jersey drivers. A separate survey filed by QuoteWizard last month found that the average Rhode Island motorist $823 per year in lost time and repairs from driving on poor-quality roads.

The Reason Foundation also found 17.46% of Rhode Island’s bridges are structurally deficient. Only Iowa and West Virginia ranked lower in this category.

In the report’s safety and performance categories, Rhode Island ranks 26th in rural fatality rate and 16th in urban fatality rate. However, a report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that no state had fewer pedestrian deaths between 2020 and 2021 than Rhode Island.

Baruch Feigenbaum, the lead author of the report, said Rhode Island can improve its rankings in the future by improving its pavement condition, reducing its traffic congestion, and fixing deficient bridges. 

“While it may be challenging for Rhode Island to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its arterial pavement quality to the national average and reduce its percentage of structurally deficient bridges somewhat, it would move up in the overall rankings substantially,” Feigenbaum said in a statement.

The state is currently undertaking several major highway renovations including the ongoing work with the Route 6/10 interchange, new highway connections near the Newport Bridge, and replacing bridges on I-295 near Route 146.

Gov. Dan McKee also intends to use $20 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding to update local roads, sidewalks and bridges.



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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.