Study: One-quarter of U.S. roads in substandard shape

Approximately one in four miles of the nation’s major roads — interstates, freeways and local roads — are in substandard condition according to a Washington, D.C.-based transportation research group.

TRIP‘s study, Rough Ride Ahead: Metro Areas with the Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother, found the top three metro areas with the largest percentage of major roads and highways with unacceptable pavement quality are:

  • Kansas City, Mo. – 71 percent
  • San Jose, Ca. – 67 percent
  • St. Louis – 66 percent

“All levels of government share responsibility for improving these roads,” Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director, said in a statement. “Federal lawmakers can help state and local governments by passing long-term federal surface transportation legislation. This will not only allow state and local governments to improve pavement conditions, but provide needed funds to improve safety and traffic flow.”

Travel on urban roads increased by 41 percent from 1990 to 2003, with urban travel by large commercial trucks — which place significant stress on road surfaces — growing even faster, increasing by 58 percent during the same period. Traffic isn’t going to let up any time soon either. By the year 2020, vehicle travel is expected to increase by roughly 40 percent and national heavy truck travel is projected to be up 47 percent.

Driving on roads in disrepair reduces fuel economy and increases vehicle maintenance needs. According to the TRIP study, average San Jose and Kansas City drivers pay an extra $689 a year for vehicle maintenance thanks to rough roads. In St. Louis, drivers get a $20 break, with the annual cost of bad roads coming in at $669.

The study offers two appendices with information on just how much rough roads are costing drivers in cities around the country. Appendix B looks at urban areas with at least 500,000 people, and Appendix D examines medium sized cities with 250,000 to 500,000 people.