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The numbers from TRIP show that 28 percent of the nation’s major roadways — interstates, freeways, and major arterial roadways in urban areas — are in “poor” condition. This means they have so many major ruts, cracks and potholes that they can’t simply be resurfaced — they need to be completely rebuilt.
Those cracks and potholes put a lot of extra wear and tear on your car. They wear your tires away faster, and they decrease your gas mileage too. All of these factors go into that calculation of $515 in extra annual cost, above and beyond what you’d pay to maintain your car if the roads were in good conditions…
The worst roads in America are in Washington D.C., where 92 percent of our major roadways are rated as “poor.” Conversely, zero percent of D.C.’s roads received a “good” rating in the Federal Highway Administration data analyzed by TRIP. There is almost literally not a single good road in D.C.
But D.C. is a special case, since it is not a state and doesn’t have vast stretches of highway like most places in the U.S. do. So among the real states, the worst roads are in California where 51 percent of the highways are rated poor. Rhode Island, New Jersey and Michigan all have “poor” ratings of 40 percent or more. Dang.
The ending of this analysis is that we need to spend more on infrastructure. It may cost a lot to pay upfront costs to completely rebuild major roads (plus the time lost to congestion) but it may just pay off down the road with reduced costs for drivers. Such is the nature of infrastructure: well-spent money early on can save money and time later on. And, of course, there are better and worse ways to fight potholes.
But, there may be a second moral at the end of this story. Cars are expensive. You drive them off the lot and they depreciate. Gas prices are up and states are raising gas taxes. Insurance isn’t cheap and it is required. Maintenance can be pricey. New features – such as automation or backup cameras or alternatives to gas power – may just cost more. And to top it all off, many American settings practically require a car. (Indeed, this is a contributor to the spatial mismatch for jobs.) The whole system devoted to driving from cars to roads to garages requires a lot of resources that might have been spent elsewhere.