South Carolina roads were ranked seventh in the nation for overall highway performance and efficiency in the latest Annual Highway Report by the Reason Foundation.

Reason Foundation’s 2013 Highway Report of state highway system’s performance and efficiency

1. North Dakota

2. Kansas

3. Wyoming

4. New Mexico

5. Montana

6. Nebraska

7. South Carolina

8. Missouri

9. South Dakota

10. Mississippi

11. Texas

12. Georgia

13. Oregon

14. Kentucky

15. Virginia

16. Nevada

17. Idaho

18. New Hampshire

19. North Carolina

20. Delaware

21. Tennessee

22. Indiana

23. Arizona

24. Washington

25. Ohio

26. Utah

27. Alabama

28. Vermont

29. Maine

30. Michigan

31. Wisconsin

32. West Virginia

33. Iowa

34. Illinois

35. Louisiana

36. Arkansas

37. Florida

38. Oklahoma

39. Pennsylvania

40. Maryland

41. Colorado

42. Minnesota

43. Massachusetts

44. Connecticut

45. New York

46. New Jersey

47. California

48. Hawaii

49. Rhode Island

50. Alaska

Surprised? Lead author of the report David T. Hartgen, a professor at the University of North Carolina and Senior Fellow of the Reason Foundation, said the state is a model in making the most of a small budget, which is why it ranked so high on the list.

While road conditions are a factor in the study (the state ranks 37th in rural interstate pavement condition and 15th in urban interstate pavement condition) it was in the top five in the four budget disbursement categories and first in total disbursements per mile. There are 11 indicators total that make up each state’s overall rating, including highway expenditures, bridge condition, urban interstate congestion, fatality rates and narrow rural lanes.

“South Carolina has made a lot of progress. From my perspective as a neighbor in North Carolina it’s a pretty good system. They have a thinner budget relative to the size of the system,” Hartgen said. According to the report, the Palmetto State has the fourth largest state-administered system in the nation with 41,613 miles of roads under state control.

But the state did not fair too well in other categories. It was ranked 48th in fatality rate, 37th in urban interstate congestion, 37th in rural interstate pavement condition and 23rd in deficient bridges.

“We’re used to working with limited funds so I think we look for ways to stretch our dollars. I think it (the study) shows that we do a good job with the resources,” said Jim Feda, director of maintenance for the S.C. Department of Transportation.

Feda said that because the department’s budget is small for the size of the highway system, it “can’t be as proactive as we would like to be.” He said the state hasn’t had enough funding to resurface several secondary, nonfederal roads in several years.

The condition of the roads, though, does not necessarily mean that your car is worse off.

“If folks do the maintenance on their cars, the highway conditions aren’t a factor. ... You’re going to prevent the adverse road conditions from having an impact on your car,” said David Hay, president of Hay Tire Pros. He recommends getting your car checked every three to six months.

Overall, Hartgen said South Carolina has improved on all indicators over the past 20 years of the study, with the exception for the percent of deficient bridges.

According to their 2010 state of the department report, the S.C. Department of Transportation budgeted $275 million for highways and bridges, and $10 million for transit in 2009-10.

The Reason Foundation study is based on spending and performance data submitted by the state highway agencies in 2009. The state spent $31,379 per mile in 2009.

The foundation was founded in 1978 and conducts nonpartisan research that “promotes choice, competition, and a dynamic market economy as the foundation for human dignity and progress” its Web site says.

South Carolina has been in the Annual Highway Report’s top 10 every year since 2000, with the exception of 2002.

Reach Jade McDuffie at 937-5560 or