California Urban Roads Are Still the Worst and Cost Motorists Even More

Thursday, July 30, 2015

California and the nation have taken advantage of historically low interest rates generated by the Great Recession to invest money in the decaying highway infrastructure, while stimulating economic growth through construction and employment.

Just kidding. In the real world, lawmakers have fretted about nonexistent inflation and the need for balanced budgets, and imposed austerity. This thoughtlessness at the local, state and federal level accelerated highway decay and allowed California cities to continue their domination of TRIP’s annual list of the nation’s worst urban roads (pdf).

The Washington, D.C.–based transportation group said 28% of the nation’s major urban roads were in bad condition, contributing mightily to driver costs of $109.3 billion annually. Forty-one percent are in mediocre or fair condition and 31% are good.

Fifty-three percent of the 3 million miles driven in the U.S. each year are on these roads. Two years ago, when they were less horrible than they are now, it only cost drivers $80 billion.

TRIP calculates the cost by factoring in vehicle deterioration and depreciation, as well as additional fuel consumption and repairs. The group publishes two lists, one for cities with more than 500,000 people and another for cities with 250,000-500,000. California cities dominate both.

TRIP deems 74% of major urban roads in the San Francisco-Oakland area to be “poor,” based on 2013 survey information from state transportation officials and a rating index that measures pavement smoothness. That’s the worst large metropolitan area in the nation, followed closely by Los Angeles-Long Beach (73%) and Concord (62%) in the Bay Area.

The report calculated that the lousy S.F.-Oakland roads cost an average driver $1,044 per year. Two years before, 56% of the roads were rated poor and cost drivers $782. The story is similar for L.A.-Long Beach. In 2011, 64% of the roads were poor and cost drivers $832, compared to $1,031 in 2013.

Santa Rosa has the third-worst roads for medium-sized cities at 49% and is joined in the Top 25 by Hemet (36%), Stockton (34%), Modesto (30%) and Oxnard (30%). Bad roads cost drivers $811 in Santa Rosa, $758 in Hemet, $657 in Stockton, $636 in Modesto and $669 in Oxnard.

    Large Urban Areas % Poor Cost
 1. San Francisco–Oakland            74% $1,044
 2. L.A.–Long Beach–Santa Ana 73% $1,031
 3. Concord 62% $954
 4. Detroit 56% $866
 5. San Jose                                  53% $844
 6. Cleveland, Ohio 52% $845
 7. New York, NY–Newark, New Jersey  51% $791
 8. San Diego                                 51% $843
 9. Grand Rapids, Michigan 51% $803
10. Honolulu, Hawaii 51% $777
14. Riverside-San Bernardino 46% $812
24. Sacramento 42% $767
     Medium Urban Areas % Poor Cost
 1. Flint, Michigan 54% $839
 2. Antioch 52% $831
 3. Santa Rosa 49% $811
 4. Trenton, New Jersey 48% $764
 5. Temecula-Murrieta 47% $857
 6. Scranton, Pennsylvania 46% $717
 7. Reno, Nevada 46% $748
 8. Spokane, Washington 44% $685
 9. Jackson, Mississippi 44% $818
10. Lansing, Michigan 39% $733
14. Hemet 36% $758
15. Stockton 34% $657
20. Modesto 30% $636
21. Oxnard 30% $669

–Ken Broder


To Learn More:

Los Angeles Roads Are the Second Worst in America (by Dennis Romero, LA Weekly)

Report: 1 in 4 Urban Roads Damaged, Costing Motorists Up to $1,000 per Year (by Bart Jansen, USA Today)

California Dominates Lists of Nation’s Worst Roads in Urban Areas (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Because Federal Gas Tax Hasn’t Been Raised in 22 Years, U.S. Highways Are Deteriorating (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother (TRIP) (pdf)

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