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John Hennessy III,

Bumpy Roads Ahead: America’s Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make our Roads Smoother

Posted by Content Coordinator on Tuesday, August 11th, 2015


Executive Summary

Keeping the wheel steady on America’s roads and highways has become increasingly challenging as drivers encounter potholes and pavement deterioration. More than a quarter of the nation’s major urban roadways – highways and major streets that are the main routes for commuters and commerce – are in poor condition. These critical links in the nation’s transportation system carry 53 percent of the approximately 3 trillion miles driven annually in America.

With the rate of vehicle travel returning to pre-recession levels and local and state governments unable to adequately fund road repairs while the current federal surface transportation program is set to expire on July 31, 2015, road conditions could get even worse in the future.

In this report, TRIP examines the condition of the nation’s major urban roads, including pavement condition data for America’s most populous urban areas, recent trends in travel, the latest developments in repairing roads and building them to last longer, and the funding levels needed to adequately address America’s deteriorated roadways.

For the purposes of this report, an urban area includes the major city in a region and its neighboring or surrounding suburban areas. Pavement condition data are the latest available and are derived from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) 2013 annual survey of state transportation officials on the condition of major state and locally maintained roads and highways, based on a uniform pavement rating index. The pavement rating index measures the level of smoothness of pavement surfaces, supplying information on the ride quality provided by road and highway surfaces. The major findings of the TRIP report are:

More than a quarter of the nation’s major urban roads are rated in substandard or poor condition, providing motorists and truckers with a rough ride and increasing the cost of operating a vehicle.

  • More than one-quarter (28 percent) of the nation’s major urban roads – Interstates, freeways and other arterial routes – have pavements that are in substandard condition and provide an unacceptably rough ride to motorists.
  • An additional 41 percent of the nation’s major urban roads and highways have pavements that are in mediocre or fair condition, and 31 percent are in good condition.
  • Including major rural roads, 18 percent of the nation’s major roads are in poor condition, 40 percent are in mediocre or fair condition, and 42 percent are in good condition.
  • The 25 urban regions with a population of 500,000 or greater with the highest share of major roads and highways with pavements that are in poor condition and provide a rough ride are:

Major Urban Areas: Road Condition Rankings

Download full version (PDF): Bumpy Roads Ahead

About TRIP
Founded in 1971, TRIP ® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes economic and technical data on surface transportation issues. TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies, equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with efficient and safe surface transportation.

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