YE Odd New England

In this May 9, 2014, photograph, an electronic highway sign on Interstate 93 shows the term "Use Yah Blinkah" in Boston. 

(The Center Square) – Flanked by high rates of spending and chronically poor pavement conditions, Massachusetts continued to notch low rankings in a recent nationwide study that evaluated highway performance of states across the country.

In its 26th annual highway report, the Reason Foundation ranked Massachusetts 43rd in its analysis. The Los Angeles-based libertarian think tank gave the state a four-spot improvement from last year’s 47th ranking.

The report’s author cited several reasons in the analysis for the bottom-dwelling ranking, including persistently high disbursements for capital and bridge improvements, routine maintenance and administrative expenses.

The report also singled out two chronic, weighty challenges in Massachusetts – pavement quality and traffic congestion – for its ranking. According to the foundation’s study, Massachusetts spends 1.5 times what nearby Maryland spends per state-controlled lane-mile.

In the foundation’s report on Massachusetts, Baruch Feigenbaum, lead author and Reason Foundation’s senior managing director of transportation policy, gave his take on how the state can turn the tide on its comparatively low performance.

“To improve in the rankings, Massachusetts should try to have its high costs translate into better pavement condition and less traffic congestion,” Feigenbaum said in a statement.

“For example,” Feigenbaum added, “the state ranks in the bottom 10 states in all four of the disbursement categories and also ranks in the bottom 10 in two of the four pavement condition categories (rural interstate and urban arterial) and traffic congestion.”

Amid the state’s continued pressing capital needs, Feigenbaum encouraged Massachusetts lawmakers to consider its spending priorities and maximize funding for the highest-need infrastructure requirements.

“While it may be challenging for Massachusetts to reduce its spending, if the state could improve its pavement quality to the national average, it would move up in the overall rankings,” Feigenbaum said in the statement. “As it is, the state has high spending and many roads in poor condition.”

Compared to nearby states, Massachusetts did outpace some of its neighbors. Rhode Island, for example, ranked 49th, and New Jersey notched a last-place ranking of 50th. New York, at 46th, also trailed.

But several other nearby states far outpaced Massachusetts. Vermont came in 13th, New Hampshire ranked 19th, Connecticut ranked 31st, and Maine came in 33rd.

None of the top 10 states in this year’s Reason Foundation report were in the northeast. North Dakota was the top-ranked state, followed by Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Utah, Kansas, Idaho, South Dakota and, at No. 10, Tennessee.