15 Cities With the Worst Roads in America

A driver has hands gripping a steering wheel
Pushish Images / Shutterstock.com

This story originally appeared on CoPilot.

By forcing many Americans to stay home, COVID-19 created a rare opportunity for states to accelerate much-needed road repairs without interrupting daily commutes.

With traffic reduced, departments of transportation across the country went to work fixing bridges, highways and mass transit systems — many of which were long overdue for repair. According to data from the Federal Highway Administration, 26% of major urban roads in the U.S. are in poor condition.

Apart from being unpleasant to drive on, poor roads are linked to worse traffic, reduced safety and increased vehicle ownership costs. Research from AAA found that potholes alone cost drivers $3 billion a year in vehicle repair costs.

Furthermore, the most recent Urban Mobility Report released by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that the average commuter spends 54 hours per year in traffic congestion and suffers a personal cost of $1,080 in time and fuel.

While 2020 will likely be an anomaly, the number of miles traveled on American roads tends to increase each year. Federal Highway Administration data shows that while rural travel has stayed mostly flat since 2000, travel on urban roads has continued to rise alongside increased urbanization.

Even though total state and local spending on roads has likewise gone up, its share of total state and local spending has declined and is insufficient to fund necessary road maintenance in many parts of the country. Not surprisingly, there is significant regional variation when it comes to road quality — a function of differences in funding, climate, commuting patterns and other factors.

Almost half of all major urban roads in Rhode Island (47.9%), California (46.2%), and New Jersey (42.4%) are in poor condition. On the other hand, less than 10% of major urban roads are considered poor in Georgia (6.1%), Tennessee (8.6%), Florida (8.7%), Idaho (8.7%) and Indiana (9.3%).

Overall, states in the South tend to have a smaller share of urban roads in poor condition than states in the Northeast and West Coast.

To find which urban areas have the worst roads, researchers at CoPilot analyzed road quality statistics from the Federal Highway Administration. Using the FHA’s International Roughness Index data, they ranked each urban area based on the percentage of road-miles categorized as poor.

While the locations with the worst roads are geographically diverse, urban areas on the West Coast, especially in California, are disproportionately represented.

Following are the large cities with the worst roads in the U.S.

15. Milwaukee

Milwaukee on Lake Michigan
Rudy Balasko / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 33.5%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 7.4%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 39.4%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 100.0%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 24.4
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 4.8

14. Denver

Denver skyline
Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 36.1%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 6.6%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 31.8%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 52.0%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 25.8
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 3.9

13. Philadelphia

Philadelphia, downtown evening rush hour.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 37.7%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 8.7%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 37.8%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 46.2%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 20.0
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 3.9

12. Dallas

Dallas, Texas
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 37.9%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 8.2%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 56.7%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 100.0%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 28.5
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 4.5

11. Sacramento, California

Sacramento, California
Andrew Zarivny / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 38.1%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 3.6%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 54.7%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 34.1%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 24.2
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 3.5

10. Boston

Boston
mandritoiu / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 39.3%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 5.3%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 50.8%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 42.0%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 27.9
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 4.3

9. Cleveland

Cleveland, Ohio
Pedro Gutierrez / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 40.2%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 7.1%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 47.3%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 48.8%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 24.3
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 4.1

8. San Diego

San Diego
bonandbon / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 43.6%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 3.5%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 45.4%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 58.2%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 25.5
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 2.6

7. Providence, Rhode Island

Providence, Rhode Island
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 44.2%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 6.2%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 53.4%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 55.7%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 22.9
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 5.1

6. Seattle

Aerial view of roads leading into Seattle at sunset.
Punit Sharma Fotography / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 44.2%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 12.5%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 44.3%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 51.6%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 23.5
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 3.6

5. Detroit

Detroit as seen from the air.
Andrey Bayda / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 44.2%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 9.0%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 42.2%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 53.4%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 25.9
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 4.1

4. New York City

New York taxi
Luciano Mortula – LGM / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 45.5%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 18.7%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 53.2%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 48.3%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 16.0
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 2.4

3. Los Angeles

The streets of Los Angeles, where median rent is relatively low
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 62.8%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 11.6%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 68.6%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 68.9%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 22.6
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 2.1

2. San Jose, California

The skyline of San Jose, which has a lower median rent than median mortgage payment
stellamc / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 63.3%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 9.8%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 53.9%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 88.9%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 22.6
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 2.4

1. San Francisco

San Francisco
Pius Lee / Shutterstock.com
  • Percentage of all major roads in poor condition: 71.2%
  • Interstates and freeways in poor condition: 15.7%
  • Arterials in poor condition: 70.8%
  • Minor arterials in poor condition: 88.2%
  • Daily vehicle-miles per capita: 21.7
  • Miles of road per 1,000 people: 2.3

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

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