Minnesota ranks next to California as having the worst urban interstate traffic congestion in the nation, according to a study by the libertarian Reason Foundation. That's the headline you're likely to hear, and possibly the only takeaway you'll get from news reports.
But of course, it's not that simple or I wouldn't be writing about it.
Minnesota also ranks in fifth for deficient bridges and fourth for fatality rate, which sounds bad, but is actually good. We rank first (best) for rural interstate roads in poor condition, but drop to 17th once you get off the freeway.
On overall performance, Minnesota ranks 13th, which is close to our spending on maintenance (15th highest), but far better than our total highway spending per mile (21st highest).
North Dakota ranks first overall. It would be unneighborly to suggest reasons why.
New Jersey ranks worst overall, 48th in urban congestion, and has among the highest proportion of roads and bridges in poor condition. Yet it spends far and away the most per mile — 7.8 times the national average. Price tag of neglect? Or of having to hire New Jersey contractors?
You can see the state-by-state highlights summarized here.
The "free-market environmentalist" Thoreau Institute notes that per capita miles of driving have tripled since the Interstate Highway System was created, while the share of personal incomes spent on driving has remained stable. Gas taxes are much lower per mile than two generations ago.
In other words, while new roads, suburban growth and dismantled transit systems certainly contributed to Americans driving more, we also did it because we could afford to.
How much longer will that be true?