Report: New Jersey’s highways are the worst — and costliest — in the nation

By: - November 19, 2021 6:55 am

Trucks and cars drive down the New Jersey Turnpike in Elizabeth. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

New research backs up what any motorist who has driven even a few miles in New Jersey already knows — our roads are the worst.

New Jersey’s highway system ranked dead last in the nation in road conditions and cost effectiveness in the nonprofit Reason Foundation’s Annual Highway Report. It was the third year in a row that New Jersey lagged behind all other states in the report, which was released Thursday.

The nonprofit foundation ranks states in 13 categories, and New Jersey had a dismal showing in most: 50th in traffic congestion, overall and maintenance spending per mile, and capital and bridge costs per mile; 47th in urban interstate pavement condition; and 30th in structurally deficient bridges.

New Jersey’s commuters spend 86 hours a year stuck in traffic congestion, more than drivers in any other state, the report found. Utah drivers have the easiest commutes, spending less than two hours a year sitting in traffic.

“New Jersey spends the most money per mile of highway but still ranks among the worst states in three pavement condition categories,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, the report’s lead author and senior managing director of transportation policy at Reason Foundation. “If New Jersey could improve its pavement quality to the national average, it would move up in the overall rankings substantially. As it is, the state has the worst of both worlds: high spending and poor roadways.”

New Jersey spends $1.1 million per mile of state-controlled highway, the highest nationally, according to the report. That’s $929,331 more per mile than California and $762,700 more than New York.

New Jersey’s neighbors didn’t fare too well either. New York ranked 46th; Delaware, 44th; Pennsylvania, 39th; and Connecticut, 31st.

It wasn’t all bad news.

New Jersey’s rural roads are great, the report found, with the state coming in first for its rural interstate pavement condition.

Most of the states that did well overall in the report were in middle America, where roads see a fraction of the traffic that ties up New Jersey’s roads. North Dakota snagged the top spot.

New Jersey also has one of the lowest highway fatality rates in the nation, coming in fourth behind Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo comes to the New Jersey Monitor from WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.