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These Are America's 10 Best States for Infrastructure

Construction workers
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images
  • The national debate over an infrastructure plan has highlighted the importance of everything from roads and bridges to electricity and broadband.
  • Some states are already setting the pace with innovative policies that could be models for the rest of the country.
  • CNBC’s annual America’s Top States for Business study rates the states on multiple infrastructure components.

Passing a trillion-dollar infrastructure package is just part of the massive effort needed to bring America's underpinnings fully into the 21st century. Figuring out how to use the money wisely is another.

Indeed, the very definition of infrastructure has been a big part of the recent debate. Of course, there are the basics like roads and bridges. But the rise of remote work gives new importance to factors like broadband connectivity. Today's infrastructure must also consider the impact of climate change.

Some states are already ahead of the curve, adopting policies and initiatives that could offer examples for the rest of the country.

CNBC's annual America's Top States for Business study rates the infrastructure of all 50 states. In 2021, as the nation works its way out of the pandemic and companies and workers rethink their priorities, our Infrastructure category carries more weight than ever in our methodology — 15% of the total points. We measure various aspects of infrastructure including roads, bridges, airports, utilities and broadband, as well as site availability and sustainability. Some states rank poorly on infrastructure.

But these ten solid states have America's best infrastructure:

8. (tie) Maryland

Construction continues near unfinished Purple Line rail tracks at the Paul Sarbanes Transit Center on April 8, 2021 in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Drew Angerer | Getty Images
Construction continues near unfinished Purple Line rail tracks at the Paul Sarbanes Transit Center on April 8, 2021 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Maryland was already one of America's most connected states, according to BroadbandNow Research, with near universal broadband access and super-fast speeds. Now, the state is moving to bridge the digital divide and make that connectivity more accessible to all. The Digital Connectivity Act of 2021, signed into law this spring, establishes a state broadband office to ensure all residents have access to broadband service within five years, and funds grants to make it affordable. The Old Line State also offers a reliable electrical grid, plenty of sites for development, and easy access to the Eastern Seaboard and the rest of the country.

2021 Infrastructure score: 227 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 113,727,950

Bridges in poor condition: 5%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 21%

Broadband access: 95.2%

Power outages per year: 2.4 hours

8. (tie) Delaware

Power company sub station electrical equipment in Wilmington, Delaware.
Lisa J Goodman | Moment Mobile | Getty Images
Power company sub station electrical equipment in Wilmington, Delaware.

Electrical grid modernization has been a priority in Delaware for many years, and it is paying off with one of the lowest rates of power outages in the country, according to U.S. Department of Energy data. The state's major electric utility, Exelon subsidiary Delmarva Power, recently completed a $21.5 million project to rebuild its transmission and distribution lines in Sussex County, benefitting more than 78,000 customers. Delaware has no international airport, and only one airline — Frontier — serves Wilmington. But the First State is well-positioned to access a large swath of population, and even in this tiny state, there is plenty of vacant space for businesses to move into.

2021 Infrastructure score: 227 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 103,729,515

Bridges in poor condition: 2%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 11%

Broadband access: 94.8%

Power outages per year: 1.7 hours

8. (tie) Arizona

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger aircraft is towed on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.
Robert Alexander | Archive Photos | Getty Images
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 passenger aircraft is towed on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona.

Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport bills itself as "America's Friendliest Airport," with an annual economic impact of $38 billion. In 2019, the Phoenix City Council approved a major 20-year expansion plan aimed at doubling the airport's capacity. The facility helps make Arizona one of America's most accessible states by air, according to Federal Aviation Administration data. In a state that depends on air conditioning to survive, the electrical grid is the second-most reliable in the nation, after Nebraska. Water is another story, however. Rapid growth has left the state with some pressing and expensive needs to maintain its drinking and wastewater systems.

2021 Infrastructure score: 227 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 42,340,716

Bridges in poor condition: 2%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 11%

Broadband access: 73.8%

Power outages per year: 1.4 hours

7. Utah

A worker uses a Volvo AB excavator to build a road during construction in Saratoga Springs, Utah.
George Frey | Bloomberg | Getty Images
A worker uses a Volvo AB excavator to build a road during construction in Saratoga Springs, Utah.

Roads and bridges in the Beehive State are among the best in the nation, but this year state lawmakers agreed to spend another $1.2 billion on infrastructure, including projects to ease traffic gridlock near the state's most popular ski areas. The package also includes more funding for Utah's Inland Port project, which has been under discussion for 40 years, and the newly rebuilt Salt Lake City International Airport. As a rising technology hub, Utah does well on broadband access, but it lags on affordability.

2021 Infrastructure score: 232 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 31,099,952      

Bridges in poor condition: 2%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 7%

Broadband access: 88.4%

Power outages per year: 2.4 hours

6. Georgia

Traffic on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Thursday, May 13, 2021.
Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Traffic on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

As was the case in most big cities, the pandemic wreaked havoc on commercial vacancy rates in Atlanta, and that filtered through to the whole state, according to data prepared for CNBC by CoStar Group. Georgia's office vacancy rate remained at 12.5% in the first quarter of this year. Not a great figure for landlords, but a potential opportunity for companies looking to make a move. Other components of Georgia's infrastructure are equally robust, including the nation's busiest airport, critical ports, and decent connectivity. But Georgia's location makes it especially susceptible to the effects of climate change, costing the state points for sustainability.

2021 Infrastructure score: 233 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 77,526,157

Bridges in poor condition: 2.5%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 6%

Broadband access: 84.9%

Power outages per year: 2.5 hours

5. Florida

The CMA CGM Argentina container ship arrives at PortMiami on April 06, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The port announced that the 366 meters long, 15,000 TEU (20 ft equivalent unit) vessel set a new record for the largest container ship to ever call at a Florida port.
Joe Raedle | Getty Images
The CMA CGM Argentina container ship arrives at PortMiami on April 06, 2021 in Miami, Florida. The port announced that the 366 meters long, 15,000 TEU (20 ft equivalent unit) vessel set a new record for the largest container ship to ever call at a Florida port.

Despite its vulnerability to extreme weather and the effects of climate change — which puts the Sunshine State at the bottom of the rankings for sustainability — the state's power grid is the fourth-most reliable in the nation. Florida is America's second-busiest state for air traffic, after California. And its ports make it an indispensable gateway to Latin America and the world. Florida is also one of the most connected states when it comes to broadband, though it could stand to do better at making those connections affordable.

2021 Infrastructure score: 234 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: B+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 49,151,544

Bridges in poor condition: 3%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 6%

Broadband access: 92.4%

Power outages per year: 1.5 hours

4. Tennessee

Hernando De Soto bridge as photographed from Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee.
Raymond Boyd | Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images
Hernando De Soto bridge as photographed from Tom Lee Park in Memphis, Tennessee.

The Volunteer State benefits from its central location — within reach of a large chunk of the U.S. population, but out of reach of the worst impacts of climate change. Roads and bridges are generally sound, but Tennessee is the site of one of the worst infrastructure failures of the past year — the indefinite closure of the Hernando de Soto Bridge near Memphis in May after a potentially catastrophic crack was discovered. Traffic on Interstate 40 — and briefly on the Mississippi River below — had to be rerouted.

2021 Infrastructure score: 245 (Top States Grade: A-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 106,012,008

Bridges in poor condition: 4%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 9%

Broadband access: 82.4%

Power outages per year: 4.5 hours

3. Indiana

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announces a list of infrastructure projects that will get funding in next five years under Indiana's Next Level Roads initiative, a 20-year program to improve Indiana's roads and bridges, during a press conference in Indianapolis.
Michael Conroy | AP
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announces a list of infrastructure projects that will get funding in next five years under Indiana's Next Level Roads initiative, a 20-year program to improve Indiana's roads and bridges, during a press conference in Indianapolis.

The Hoosier State has taken sustainability to heart. A long-term program to clean up brownfields in the state now gives preference to redevelopment plans that incorporate sustainable practices. Indiana lives up to its Crossroads of America motto, with four major interstate highways coming together in Indianapolis, and easy access to much of the Eastern half of the U.S. But when it comes to virtual crossroads — broadband connectivity — the state has some work to do.

2021 Infrastructure score: 246 (Top States Grade: A-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 105,512,960

Bridges in poor condition: 6%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 9%

Broadband access: 79.8%

Power outages per year: 4.3 hours

2. Nevada

Aerial view from a drone down to large solar thermal power station in the dry desert landscape to the horizon. Nevada, USA.
Mlenny | E+ | Getty Images
Aerial view from a drone down to large solar thermal power station in the dry desert landscape to the horizon. Nevada, USA.

Nevada is harnessing the blazing desert sun to become a leader in solar energy, helping to give the state one of the most reliable power grids in the nation. Now, the state is considering a proposal to raise the stakes with a major upgrade of transmission lines to carry Nevada's renewable energy throughout the state and the region. Nevada roads are among the best in the nation. In 2019, the state celebrated the completion of Project NEON, a $1 billion highway reconstruction project in Las Vegas that was the largest public works program in state history. But Nevada's virtual infrastructure could use some attention as well, earning mediocre marks for speed and affordability.

2021 Infrastructure score: 248 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: A-)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 51,755,881

Bridges in poor condition: 1%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 4%

Broadband access: 85.3%

Power outages per year: 1.5 hours

1. Illinois

Union Pacific Corp. freight locomotives sit parked in a rail yard in East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.
Luke Sharrett | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Union Pacific Corp. freight locomotives sit parked in a rail yard in East St. Louis, Illinois, U.S.

More than a century after the poet Carl Sandburg called Chicago a "Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler," Illinois remains a leader in the value of goods shipped. But that is not the only area where the Land of Lincoln's infrastructure shines. The power grid is reliable, broadband connectivity is good, air travel is abundant, and there is plenty of commercial space available. But the state also has some serious infrastructure issues, including decrepit roads and bridges, and public water systems badly in need of refurbishment. More troubling: Illinois' dismal balance sheet makes it unclear how the state will handle the heavy burdens on its big shoulders.

2021 Infrastructure score: 272 out of 375 points (Top States Grade: A+)

U.S. population within 500 miles: 90,988,061

Bridges in poor condition: 9%

Roads in unacceptable condition: 21%

Broadband access: 89.3%

Power outages per year: 1.9 hours

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