10 states with America’s worst infrastructure, and most to gain from billions in federal dollars

Environment

Not since the New Deal has the U.S. government poured this kind of money into rebuilding America’s infrastructure. Companies and states are clamoring for their piece of that federal jackpot.

That helps explain why infrastructure is the major topic of conversation in economic development circles this year, and why it also looms large in CNBC’s annual ranking of America’s Top States for Business in 2024. Under this year’s methodology, Infrastructure is the heaviest-weighted category for the first time since the study began in 2007.

But Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNBC that it is not just the federal money — with tens of billions of dollars earmarked for infrastructure improvements within the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act — that is fueling what he calls an “infrastructure moment.”

“The other part of it is, we were reminded as a country the hard way how important our infrastructure is, because of the pressures we experienced at the beginning of this decade with Covid. We saw what happens if our supply chains come under strain,” he said. “All of that instability really emphasized just how important it is to have the kind of infrastructure for moving people and moving goods that you really need in order to survive and thrive and grow in this decade and beyond.”

To evaluate each state’s infrastructure, our Top States study considers not just roads, bridges, ports and airports. We also look at the power grid, water utilities, and broadband. We consider which states are most susceptible to climate disasters like wind, floods, and fires. We consider the availability of vacant land, and industrial and office space. New in 2024, we consider state initiatives known as site readiness programs which connect companies with shovel-ready locations.

“That’s really something that I think sets some states apart, because they are willing to spend that money to create that infrastructure,” said Seth Martindale, chairman of the Site Selectors Guild, which supplied some of the data for this year’s study.

Some states are already meeting the moment with great infrastructure. But these ten states are America’s worst, and need all the help they can get.

10. Arkansas

Turrell Arkansas Photo taken on October 20, 2021 Rusty old style water tower in downtown Turrell Arkansas. 
Larrybraunphotography.com | Moment | Getty Images

Four years ago, a report by the Arkansas Broadband Office proclaimed that “relief is in sight” for disconnected Arkansans.

“It seems clear that the year 2020 will mark a turning point for broadband in Arkansas,” the report said.

But that relief never came. Arkansas remains one of America’s least connected states. Only about 26% of Arkansans have access to a high-speed internet plan for $60 per month or less, according to BroadbandNow, which ranks the state 48th overall for connectivity.

The state is trying to keep its promise once and for all, with the help of more than $1 billion in broadband funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The state broadband office notes that it is the nation’s ninth-largest allocation per capita. The funding is also helping to develop a map of internet service throughout the state, and to help residents develop digital skills.

The Arkansas Economic Development Corporation is currently offering nine certified development sites, ranging in size from 37 to 1,800 acres.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 177 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 79,833,890

Roads in unacceptable condition: 12.2%

Bridges in poor condition: 5.3%

Affordable broadband access: 26.3%

Power outages per year: 6.9 hours

Site readiness program: Yes

9. North Dakota

High voltage power transmission lines near Underwood, N.D. on January 09, 2022. 
Dan Koeck | The Washington Post | Getty Images

After a widespread ice storm last Christmas did an estimated $11.5 million in damage in the Peace Garden State and left thousands without power, Gov. Doug Burgum wrote a letter to President Biden seeking federal disaster assistance.

“The state’s whole community has been in a consistent cycle of recovery to considerable and variable disaster events,” he said.

It was North Dakota’s eleventh federal disaster request in 5 years (the president approved it).

That cycle of disaster and response has left North Dakota utility customers reeling. The state’s power grid is among America’s least reliable, according to U.S. Department of Energy data.

Otter Tail Power Company and Minnesota-Dakota Utilities hope to improve the situation by building a 95-mile, 345-kilovolt transmission line in the state, but it is not due to be energized until 2028.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 171 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 11,106,055

Roads in unacceptable condition: 4.7%

Bridges in poor condition: 10.6%

Affordable broadband access: 25%

Power outages per year: 9.3 hours

Site readiness program: No

8. Montana

Bison (or Buffalo) migrate out of Yellowstone National Park in winter
Mark Miller Photos | Digitalvision | Getty Images

Montana may be Big Sky Country, but there are remarkably few places on the ground to set up shop.

A search in May for vacant commercial or industrial sites 15 acres or greater turned up just 41 statewide. Industrial, office, and retail space is equally hard to come by, according to data from CoStar Group. Connecting with customers and vendors can be challenging, too — both virtually through the state’s poor broadband network, and physically because of Montana’s remote location — though once you get here, the roads are in excellent shape.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 162 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 8,908,435

Roads in unacceptable condition: 5.8%

Bridges in poor condition: 6.9%

Affordable broadband access: 41.7%

Power outages per year: 3.8 hours

Site readiness program: No

7. Massachusetts

A truck on Rte 93 in Canton, MA rolled over and the contents were spilled across the highway, causing a rare pandemic sight of a long traffic jam on the highway on Dec. 7, 2020. 
Suzanne Kreiter | Boston Globe | Getty Images

To live in Bay State is to spend lots of time in traffic, and not just in the Boston area. The state’s average commuting time of 28.6 minutes is the fourth-longest in the nation, according to the Census Bureau. And that trip to work is likely to be bumpy, with nearly 36% of the state’s roads in unacceptable condition, and 8.5% of bridges in poor condition, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

According to the Site Selectors Guild, Massachusetts does not have a program to help guide companies to shovel-ready sites, so simply setting up shop can be a challenge. Thinking of working from home instead? Affordable high-speed internet service can be hard to come by.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 160 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 67,898,118

Roads in unacceptable condition: 35.6%

Bridges in poor condition: 8.5%

Affordable broadband access: 28.2%

Power outages per year: 2.7 hours

Site readiness program: No

6. West Virginia

Drone shot looking across the Kanawha River from Poca, West Virginia towards the coal fired power plant located on the opposite shore in the town of Winfield in Putnam County.
Halbergman | E+ | Getty Images

Not only is West Virginia power environmentally unfriendly — just 7% of it comes from renewable sources and much of the rest comes from coal — but the grid is also notoriously unreliable. Power outages are a regular occurrence in the Mountain State, and unlike in many states, the power doesn’t only go out when the weather is bad.

Compounding the issue are fundamental disagreements over what to do about it. The White House is touting some $460 million in clean energy initiatives in the state, and billions more in private sector commitments. But West Virginia political leaders, including Gov. Jim Justice and U.S. Senators Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito, argue that the state’s coal industry is essential not only to the West Virginia economy, but also for grid reliability in their state and beyond. They argue that a transition away from coal would cause more outages.

Earlier this year, the state joined 24 others suing the EPA over power plant rules that the West Virginia Coal Association says would force all nine of the state’s coal-fired plants to close. And Gov. Justice, who is running to replace Manchin in the Senate, vetoed a bill that would have allowed solar plants to expand in the state.

West Virginia Economic Development currently has seven sites it has designated as shovel-ready, ranging from 1.3 acres to 102 acres.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 158 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 137,948,693

Roads in unacceptable condition: 13.4%

Bridges in poor condition: 19.7%

Affordable broadband access: 30.2%

Power outages per year: 16.7 hours

Site readiness program: Yes

5. Mississippi

Brenda Gavin helps remove belongings from the damaged home of Elnora Ross after a tornado struck off Country Road 16, on June 19, 2023 in Louin, Mississippi. 
Michael Democker | Getty Images

With the twin threats of hurricanes along the Gulf Coast, and severe thunderstorms, wind and hail to the north, Mississippi’s infrastructure — and its people and businesses — are vulnerable. Not a single property in the state is without some risk of climate-related damage, according to First Street Foundation, a nonprofit, non-partisan research organization. More than 16% of properties are at risk of flooding, among the highest of any state. The severe weather means power outages are frequent as well.

Meanwhile, just 31% of Mississippians have access to affordable internet service, and service in general is slow, according to BroadbandNow.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 154 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 76,078,478

Roads in unacceptable condition: 14.5%

Bridges in poor condition: 6.3%

Affordable broadband access: 31.1%

Power outages per year: 7.5 hours

Site readiness program: No

4. Hawaii

Days after the Maui wildfire destroyed most of Lahaina, Hawaii, crews are going house to house in search of survivors or human remains.
Robert Gauthier | Los Angeles Times | Getty Images

Nearly a year after wildfires killed more than 100 people in Maui and devastated the town of Lahaina, investigators have yet to pinpoint a cause. But they have focused their attention on downed power lines after a major utility pole snapped in the high winds. That would mean that one of the worst disasters in Hawaii’s history was infrastructure related. But the island paradise has even more pressing infrastructure issues than its power grid, which is comparatively reliable.

For years, Hawaiians have contended with poor roads. More than a third are in bad condition, including sections of the Honoapi’ilani Highway, which links Western Maui, including Lahaina, to the rest of the island. The highway hugs the coast, and climate change is making the road increasingly susceptible to washouts from high tides. A $90 million project is underway, partly funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, to rebuild the road. The five-year project adds new measures to mitigate coastal erosion and a projected three-foot rise in sea levels.

“We’re not going to make somebody build a road the exact same way if it’s getting washed out year after year by what used to be a once in a hundred-year event,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNBC.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 150 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: D-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 1,270,874

Roads in unacceptable condition: 37.7%

Bridges in poor condition: 6.7%

Affordable broadband access: 20%

Power outages per year: 3.1 hours

Site readiness program: No

3. New Hampshire

This aerial view shows homes are surrounded by flood waters in Hampton, New Hampshire, on January 10, 2024. 
Lauren Owens Lambert | Afp | Getty Images

At a time when airports nationwide are setting records, passenger traffic at Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire was down nearly 72% through April, according to the airport’s website. And that was before Spirit Airlines suspended its flights between Manchester and Orlando beginning in May, citing, among other things, softening demand. Spirit said it was adding flights at Boston’s Logan International Airport instead, after the airline’s proposed merger with JetBlue — which also flies out of Logan — collapsed earlier this year.

New Hampshire is susceptible to extreme weather, so, like most of its New England neighbors, its power grid is vulnerable and unreliable. But the state excels when it comes to connectivity. Average download speeds are the fastest in the country, and service is widely available.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 145 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: F)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 64,023,320

Roads in unacceptable condition: 6.7%

Bridges in poor condition: 7.6%

Affordable broadband access: 45.8%

Power outages per year: 10.3 hours

Site readiness program: No

2. Maine

A line worker from White Mountain Cable Construction, a company based in Epsom, New Hampshire, work off of Brighton Avenue near Woodford Street where the nearby intersection’s stoplights were still without power in Portland on Monday, March 25, 2023. (Staff photo by Brianna Soukup/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)
Brianna Soukup | Portland Press Herald | Getty Images

Some Mainers were so frustrated with the state’s notoriously unreliable power grid that they proposed a public takeover of the state’s largest utilities, Versant and Central Maine Power. But the 2023 referendum to establish Pine Tree Power failed overwhelmingly, with nearly 70% voting against it.

Since then, the power outages have persisted, making Maine’s grid among the worst in the nation. Earlier this year, the Energy Department awarded Maine a $4.4 million grant to make its grid more resilient. But because the state faces such fundamental challenges, including vast and remote forests where a single downed tree in a winter storm can wreak havoc, no one expects that money to make much of a dent in the problem.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 140 out of 425 points (Top States Grade: F)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 46,214,698

Roads in unacceptable condition: 9%

Bridges in poor condition: 14.8%

Affordable broadband access: 45.8%

Power outages per year: 16.1 hours

Site readiness program: No

1. Alaska

An aerial view of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline crossing underneath the Dalton Highway on May 11, 2024 about 13 miles south of Coldfoot, Alaska. 
Lance King | Getty Images

At more than than 665,000 square miles, Alaska is by far America’s largest state — nearly two-and-a-half times the size of Texas. Yet no state has less space available for businesses to develop. The state had just eight parcels larger than 15 acres available when we checked in May. Industrial, office, and even retail space is also hard to come by, and the state has no program to link businesses with available sites.

Internet service is the worst in the nation, with slow speeds and limited access. And the power grid is about as dodgy as you might expect in such a rugged and often unforgiving place.

One area where Alaska does remarkably well is it water systems, where quality is good, there are few lead pipes, and the state has kept on top of maintenance needs. It is a rare shining star here in the Last Frontier, which, in keeping with that nickname, has the worst infrastructure in the nation.

2024 Infrastructure Score: 118 out of 425 points (Top States Score: F)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 609,425

Roads in unacceptable condition: 21.6%

Bridges in poor condition: 8.1%

Affordable broadband access: 20%

Power outages per year: 9.6 hours

Site readiness program: No

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