By: Shraddha Gupta
Statehouse Correspondent, The Sun Chronicle
BOSTON — The Massachusetts highway system ranks fifth-worst in the country, and it’s sliding downhill.
A new report ranking state highway systems offers a sad confirmation for Attleboro-area commuters who face traffic delays and poor maintenance along the four interstate highways that crisscross the area.
A study by The Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank, ranks Massachusetts as 46th out of the 50 states in highway performance — one spot worse than what it was in previous years.
The foundation’s 22nd annual highway report ranks state highways in 11 categories, including interstate and rural primary road pavement conditions, deficient bridges, traffic congestion, fatality rates, capital, administrative and maintenance costs per mile and total highway expenditures per mile.
The report is based on spending and performance data the states provided to the federal government for 2013, the most recent year complete data was available.
The report confirms what many area commuters already sense: Traffic congestion in Massachusetts causes more than 50 hours of delay annually per auto commuter.
Only seven other states are as congested, and Massachusetts is the only one in New England.
Despite spending more on its roads than most other states, Massachusetts was ranked as the fifth-worst in the country, ahead of only Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Jersey and Alaska.
South Carolina scored the No. 1 spot, and has consistently been ranked among the Top 10 since 2003.
According to the study, Massachusetts spent an average of $675,939 per state-controlled mile — a figure exceeded by only Florida and New Jersey.
The national average in 2013 was $160,997 per state-controlled mile. The costs typically include capital and bridge spending, maintenance expenditures and administrative costs.
Massachusetts did poorly in other categories too.
It was one of the only six states, including neighboring Connecticut and Rhode Island, that reported more than one-third of its bridges as deficient.
That’s in spite of the fact that Massachusetts, along with New Jersey, Florida and Washington, reported the highest per-mile capital and bridge expenditures — the cost to build new or widen existing highways and bridges.
On the bright side, Massachusetts again had the lowest rate of fatal crashes in the country — 0.58 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles, significantly below the national average of 1.10.
Fourteen other states saw fatality rates increase, with both Idaho and New Hampshire reporting rate increases of 0.21 points.
And while most state highways operate with an average number of 2.4 lanes per mile, Massachusetts is among the only four states that manage significantly wider roads of 3 lanes per mile.