Many people would argue that their state has the worst roads in the country. Aside from crazy drivers and constant stop-and-go traffic, many people get frustrated by the physical condition of the roads in their area. Pavement can be broken and cracked and potholes can pop up anywhere without warning. Sometimes roads can be so bumpy and uneven, you think your tire will pop off.
It is estimated that driving on roads in poor conditions costs motorists around $120 billion in vehicle repairs and operating costs - about $533 per driver. Drivers in states with rough road conditions may have to purchase additional car insurance since some damage such as pothole damage is not covered by liability-only insurance packages. This can cost drivers hundreds of extra dollars yearly in insurance alone.
About 10% of the country’s highways are in poor condition. Even more startling, 20% of roads in urban areas are in poor condition. Maintaining and improving road quality is a matter of priority and delegation of capital. An estimated $231 billion is spent every year to maintain our existing roadwork, but many people feel that the upkeep of their roads is not adequate. While the average state spends 8% of its budget on roads, taxpayer-funded highway capital is often spent on highway expansion rather than on the maintenance of roads. Taxpayer-funded highway capital is not enough to cover necessary repairs.
The nation’s infrastructure is a relatively common topic in political campaigns, especially in terms of better roads, funding, and creating jobs from infrastructure projects. The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed by Congress in November 2021. Among other benefits, the bill provides for the reauthorization of surface transportation programs. It also invests an additional $110 billion to repair roads and bridges and support transformational transportation projects. This work will help to add 1.5 million jobs to the U.S. workforce over the next ten years.
Overall, the United States’s infrastructure isn’t in great shape. However, like with most things, not all states are created equal. The following are the states with the worst roads, based on the road roughness index and the percentage of the state’s roads that are in poor condition. For the road roughness index, a weighted average of the measurements of the international roughness index (IRI), roads with a score of 95 or less are considered in good condition. Roads with an IRI score of 95 to 170 are acceptable. Roads with an IRI score of more than 170 are considered to be in poor condition.
Although California spends close to $32,000 per year on roads, it is ranked number one for road roughness. California has a road roughness index score of 160.3. While this indicates that California’s roads are in acceptable condition, 44% of California’s roads are actually in poor condition, while only 22% are indicated as being in good condition.
2. Rhode Island
With 41% of roads in poor condition, Rhode Island has the second roughest roads in the United States. Rhode Island has a road roughness index score of 149.0. Still, only 27% of the state’s roads are considered to be in good condition. Rhode Island also ranks as number one in spending per mile on its roads, showing that spending more does not mean that road conditions will necessarily be improved.
In Nebraska, only one-third of roads are in good condition. Another one-third of roads are indicated as being in poor condition. Nebraska spends about $3,000 annually on roads.
With total highway spending of about $7,500 per year, Wisconsin still has overall poor conditions on its roadways. 28% of roads are in poor condition; only 25% are considered to be in good condition. This is reflected in the road roughness index score of 139.4.
5. New York
Because of heavy traffic in urban areas and damage from snow removal materials, New York’s roads rank as the fifth worst in the country. 30% of New York’s roads are in poor condition. New York is the only state in the top five worst road infrastructure states that has a higher percentage of roads in good condition, however. 34% of New York roadways are indicated as being in good condition.