Iowa’s score has fallen on a national report that ranks our highways based on their condition and cost-effectiveness. The study’s lead author, David Hartgen, with the Reason Foundation, explains how they compile the rankings which show Iowa at number-18 this year, down from 12th a year ago.

“Each of the 50 states is required to send detailed information to Washington each year on the condition of pavements and bridges and congestion and so on, and also information on their budgets,” Hartgen says. “We take that information and roll it up and compare it one state versus another, we look at how states are doing on each measure and then how they’re doing overall.”

The study shows an uptick in the percentage of Iowa’s interstates that are in poor condition. Hartgen says Iowa’s seen a doubling in the percentage of poor interstate conditions in urban areas over the course of the past year. “That suggests to me they may be letting these sections of pavement go a little too long before they’re repaired,” Hartgen says. “Usually, states want to grab those sections when they get to the fair level and not let them get down to the poor level where the costs are much higher.”

The report shows Iowa is making significant strides in trying to maintain the quality of its roads, as the state’s ranked 18th now, up quite a ways from its 33rd place showing in 2009. “Iowa’s done pretty well overall on a number of statistics,” Hartgen says. “Their budget is a little bit less, actually, per mile than the average state so they’re working on a relatively thin resource base. They scored in the middle of the pack on most of the items we looked at.”

Iowa’s highways rank 26th in the nation in the fatality rate, 35th in the percentage of deficient bridges, 17th in rural Interstate pavement condition, 37th in urban Interstate pavement condition and 32nd in urban Interstate congestion.