Infrastructure

America's Roads Are Getting Bumpier and More Dangerous

A new report from the Reason Foundation highlights some of the worsening conditions of America's roadways.

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Our infrastructure isn't crumbling, but traveling on America's highways is getting bumpier and more dangerous. That's according to a new report from the Reason Foundation, the nonprofit that publishes this website, which found that the pavement quality of America's roads has dipped in recent years, while road deaths continue to rise.

Reason's Annual Highway report used 2016 data to examine the performance of each state's highway system across 13 separate metrics, from spending per-mile to the number of structurally deficient bridges.

Perhaps the most alarming finding is that the overall driving fatality rate has risen to 1.18 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in 2016. That's a 4.4 percent increase from 2015, and a 7.3 percent increase from 2013, according to the Reason Foundation report.

A large part of this increase is due to an improving economy, says Baruch Feigenbaum, one of the authors of the report.

"In a good economy, people tend to travel more, and they tend to drive more and take more discretionary trips," he says, adding that the spread of smartphones and texting are likely also pushing up distracted driving deaths.

Improving safety requires better road design, Feigenbaum tells Reason. "Making sure your lanes are wide, but not too wide, can cause people to drive more safely." In addition, hands-free technology being built into cars may also help reduce deaths over time, he says.

Recent years aside, road fatalities have been on a downward trend for the past 50 years.

In addition to safety concerns, pavement quality has also taken a hit, according to the Reason Foundation report. The number of urban interstates in poor condition nationwide rose 3 percent from 2015 to 2016, while the percentage of rural interstates in poor condition rose nearly 6 percent.

These overall trends mask a lot of variation across the country. Only about 1 percent of urban interstates are in poor condition in states like Florida and Illinois. That's compared to California, where 12 percent of urban interstates are in poor condition.

A lot of states with a high percentage of poor quality roads also spend a lot of money on repairing those roads. Nearly 10 percent of New Jersey's urban highways are in poor condition, despite the state spending $511,266 per lane-mile—the highest disbursement rate in the country—on its highways. Many states could make real improvements to their roadways for less money by using better contract management and public-private partnerships, Feigenbaum says.

Congestion continues to be a problem, with commuters in New York, New Jersey, California, and Georgia all spending more than 50 hours a year in rush-hour traffic. The average American commuter spent 34.7 hours in rush-hour congestion.

The Reason Foundation report comes right as policymakers are considering a major update to federal transportation policy. The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act of 2015 is set to expire next year, giving Congress an opportunity to address some of these worsening roadway conditions.

Feigenbaum says federal lawmakers should consider paying out bonuses to states for meeting quantitative performance metrics like reducing congestion and road fatalities. Allowing more toll roads and public-private partnerships would also help generate money for fixing road surfaces.

NEXT: Florida Cops Arrest a 15-Year-Old Boy for Joking About Perpetrating a Mass Shooting

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  1. How about the states start using the hundreds of billions of dollars in tax money they collect to do essential government functions like building and maintaining roads rather than stealing most of it? Just a thought.

    1. Choo-choos are the future!

      1. bike lanes brah.

        1. Bikes are the future too!

          We could have jet packs, drone flying shuttles, and flying cars for the masses…but noooooooooooo.

          We need more bike lanes, busses, and choo choos.

        2. I was just in the Bay area in CA for a week or so. Bike lanes everywhere. I probably saw 3 bikes using them. And the weather was really nice.

          1. Georgia solved this problem years ago when bicycles were deemed vehicles and get the same road privileges are cars but also must obey traffic rules that apply to them.

            Georgia also has less than 30 bicycle rider fatalities each year and average 1.7 per year million and California has 3.0 Florida had 5.7 as of 2013.
            Deadliest States For Cyclists: Per Capita Fatality Rates

            1. I thought bicycles were always considered vehicles that way.
              One of my pet peeves is cyclists pretending they are pedestrians when it suits them. You don’t get to use sidewalks and crosswalks and you ride on the same side of the road as cars do.
              The only problem is when you need a traffic light to change and a bike won’t trigger it.

              1. Can we also keep bicycles off two lane roads that have speed limits over 30 and lack a shoulder? I’ve been stuck behind pleasure riders doing 10 in a 55 zone.

                1. Here in Georgia, our “highways” that are 55mph usually have signs saying minimum speed 40mph to keep bicycles and mopeds off.

                  Back roads are mostly fair game for bikes.

              2. States can be widely different on this issue.

                1. You live in Atlanta LC?

                  Bicycles are not the problem in Georgia

              3. Damn right, zeb!
                Pisses me off when I’m sitting at a light on a line of 20 cars and some d bag cyclist comes along and zips to the front.
                Fuck off. You want to be treated like a car, act like one and sit your ass in place. Otherwise the light turns green, and all of us who’ve been waiting in line have to go slow as hell to avoid scaring the precious little shit biking along like an asshole at 5 mph

                1. And yes, I’m speaking from experience on city/back roads in ATL

                  1. Of course, now the city is infested with the electric scooters that go 20 mph.
                    Fun, but man does it get dicey on crowded sidewalks or park paths

                2. Sorry. . . One of the benefits of 2 wheels – pedals or engines – is lane splitting.

                  Especially engines, which need airflow to cool. . . Being stuck behind some dipshit in a cage = dead engine.
                  You wanna pay for new engines when someone’s bike blows up, stuck behind you?

                  1. If your contraption’s engine has a cooling system inadequate for operating in normal traffic, keep the damn thing out of normal traffic. It’s not anybody else’s fault you spent money on a piece of semi-functional junk.

                  2. At least a motorcycle can hit the speed limit after it cuts in line.
                    Bicyclists cannot, so they cut in line then slow everyone else down.
                    However, having 2 wheels instead of 4, regardless of engine, doesn’t grant anyone the right to be an ass.
                    Don’t really give a shit if someone buys a vehicle that can’t survive sitting in traffic.
                    That’s their problem

        3. For high speed electric bicycles.

      2. States can be widely different on this issue.

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    3. that’s a novel concept.

      1. It is so crazy that it might work.

    4. You are right John on this score.

      The state is its own worst enemy on this score, by failing to do the one or two things that nearly everyone expects and demands the state to do, which includes things like basic infrastructure.

  2. This has got to be Trump’s fault, ammirite?

    I can honestly say that overall Georgia Interstates are in better shape than Georgia state highways and local roads. With that being said, Georgia has pretty good roads overall.

    Alabama…Jesus, they are always working on I-20 and that Interstate sux. Commifornia has horrible roads.

    1. Have you been to Atlanta at any time in the last 10-15 years?

      1. I-285 just got mostly repaved. Its smoother than how Sarah Palin’s Buttplugger likes his kids.

        City of Atlanta roads suck. Democrats run that city.

        1. Oh right republicans can fix the traffic issues in Atlanta.

    2. Georgia Interstates (like all interstates) are state roads. They are just built with a higher percentage of federal funding together with a healthy dollop of federal planning and oversight.

    3. Georgia roads, at least around Atlanta and the burbs, are far superior to Florida’s

  3. Congestion continues to be a problem, with commuters in New York, New Jersey, California, and Georgia all spending more than 50 hours a year in rush-hour traffic.

    That’s an hour a week, or 12 minutes a day, or 6 minutes each way.

    1. Yeah, that’s not very much really. And doesn’t mean much unless we have some comparison. But I’m sure it’s not evenly distributed over all commuters.

      1. More likely it’s a typo.
        50 hours a month works out to 12 hours a week or 2.4 hours a day or 1 hr 12 min each way – which is a lot more plausible for NY, NJ and CA. (I haven’t driven in GA for a long time so I can’t speak to what’s normal here.)

        1. Now that sounds like too much for an average of all commuters. But it could be worse than I imagine.

        2. Or just bad data.

          Inrix has data for most cities in world – US cities here. eg Boston has 164 hours/yr; NYC 133 hours. You have to go down to KC, St Louis and Corpus Christi to see 50 hours/year

    1. I think German roads are better.

      1. They are. He’s obviously never been to either place. The Dutch do a good job, but it gets really spotty in the hinterlands. The Germans do a good job everywhere.

          1. I stand by my point, you have no idea what you’re talking about here.

      2. I’ve been on both, I’d say they’re close but I found the Netherlands roads to be some next level shit.

        1. Then you didn’t travel far on them. Try the stretch from Utrecht to Den Bosch and get back to me.

          1. In fact, the last time I was there in April, the road from Amsterdam to Zaadam was flooded over. Wtf?

              1. Sorry, didn’t mean to include the link twice here.

              2. That’s because of the road cameras and the police.
                Are we talking about road quality or DRIVING experience?

                Because up til now, we were talking about road quality. If we’re talking about driving experience, that’s entirely different

          2. Replying to one message instead of separate subthreads…

            I do, and data backs it up, as much as data can back up an aesthetic experience.

            And I was in the Hinterlands– the road quality was excellent compared to anything I’ve driven on the the United States. I was actually less in the Hinterlands in Germany– or should I say my driving was more limited in Germany, but far more extensive in the Netherlands.

            I also have experience driving in Belgium and I was told by the Dutch that “You’ll know you’ve entered Belgium because you’ll start feeling every bump in the road.” They were correct. I didn’t see a dramatic change between Germany and the Netherlands.

            I drove from Amsterdam through Eindhoven, Nuenen through Helmond and Derp (yes, there’s a place called Derp)– not just on the primary roads but many of the country roads in that area.

            when I drove to Germany I went straight from Eindhoven to Cologne.

            1. And that wasn’t a single, tourist drive. I was there for an extended work trip- so I was all over the damned place in those areas.

            2. Belgium blew all of their highway money on a ridiculous amount of illumination for all the motorways.

              1. I always crack up when jurisdictions spend so much on lighting. Not only are there installation costs but electricity just to light up long stretches of road THAT HEADLIGHTS ARE FOR.

              2. FYI, I really enjoyed Belgium, in particular Brussels. I really like the Dutch, but they’re practical to a fault. I prefer the sauciness of the Belgians.

                1. I’ve had a lot of fun in Antwerp.

            3. I appreciate what you’re saying but youronk was about driver experiences, not road quality.

              “Aside from usual traffic commute data, Waze takes information on road infrastructure, occurrences of accidents and hazards, and access to driver resources such as gas stations and parking lots, and meshes it into a rating for overall driving experiences.

            4. “I drove from Amsterdam through Eindhoven, Nuenen through Helmond and Derp (yes, there’s a place called Derp)– not just on the primary roads but many of the country roads in that area.

              when I drove to Germany I went straight from Eindhoven to Cologne.”

              So, a tiny fraction of both countries.

              1. The Netherlands has the most dense road network in the world. Unless one was a long-time resident, I suspect few people would cover more than a tiny fraction of the country. Do you have any data which suggests the German roads are clearly superior to those of the Dutch or are we still hanging on aesthetics which I admit to.

                1. We can continue when you answer the question I posed.

                  “Are we talking about road quality or DRIVING experience?

                  Because up til now, we were talking about road quality. If we’re talking about driving experience, that’s entirely different”

              2. Unfortunately, I’ve been googling various permutations of ‘best roads in the world’ and I keep getting “most spectacular roadway in the world” from a standpoint of majesty and sight-seeing. But here’s something I found:

                WEF has ranked 138 countries based on World Opinion Survey (2015–2016) recording the quality experience (extensiveness and condition) of road infrastructure on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 = extremely poor—among the worst in the world; 7 = extremely good—among the best in the world).

                UAE tops the list (6.5), followed by Singapore (6.3), Hong Kong SAR (6.2), Netherlands (6.1), Japan (6.1), France (6.0), Switzerland (6.0), Austria (6.0), Portugal (5).

                So:

                UAE
                Singapore
                Hong Kong
                Netherlands
                Japan
                France
                Switzerland
                Austria
                Portugal.

                I guess the Arabs and the Asians seem to do pretty well. But once you hit the West, Netherlands stands on top.

                Germany is #16 on the list.

                1. And AGAIN, that’s driving experiences not road quality. It wasn’t what I was talking about.

                  1. I typed I felt the Netherlands had some of the best roads in the world. You typed on the internet that Germany is better than the Netherlands. I accept your evidence completely. You have won, sir.

                    1. So, to be clear, you decide that rather than clarify, you’d be a dick.

                      “the best roads”

                      Is it your position then, that this is interchangeable with “best driving experience” then?

                    2. Ill take it from your abjectly stupid silence that you realize the answer reflects badly on you.

                  2. But I should note, “In your country, how is the quality (extensiveness and condition) of road infrastructure”.

                    If someone asks me about the extensiveness and the condition of my state’s road infrastructure, I’m personally going to take into account the potholes, cracks, and lack of painted lines into account. But I’ll leave it there.

                    1. You’re also going to take into account scenery and access to facilities, which have nothing to do with the quality of the road.

                    2. Well I guess that finally made you shut the fuck up.

                      Probably because, as your eelictance to answer shows, you realized you spent this entire time talkomg about something different than what I was talking about.

    2. And that is why I’m not a big optimist on self driving cars. I can drive just fine when I can’t see lines. And what happens when there is a snow storm? Everyone just has to stay home because their cars can’t cope? That may work where it happens once every few years, but not where i live.

  4. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2019/08/uber-whistleblower-autonomous-vehicles-need-new-safety-metrics-arent-really-any-safer/

    In other autonews autonomous cars are not safer than human driven ones. Ron Bailey hardest hit.

    That’s not the half of it. In April, Miller released a study claiming self-driving vehicles were actually recording incident rates higher than that of your typical motorist. Contrasting data from the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) and the California DMV, he concluded that autonomous test vehicles created more injuries per mile than the average human motorist with a few years of practice.

    That’s not what we’re being sold. Automakers have repeatedly suggested that AV testing is a gateway to a safer world, with major breakthroughs close at hand. But Miller argued that focusing on the number of miles a manufacturer covers with its self-driving fleet doesn’t yield much more than reduced public safety.

    “I want to make the road safer,” Miller, a former Uber operations manager and current chief safety officer at a California-based company developing advanced driver-assist systems for the trucking industry, explained to Automotive News. “Other programs out there, you know, they’re basically spouting science fiction about things that are years away.”

    1. Bullshit, Elon Musk’s level 5 self-driving car is a software update away.

      1. Just as long as you drive in a controlled course with no other cars and in perfect weather, sure.

          1. With both hands on the wheel and feet on the pedals.

          2. Yeah, I always say that when self-driving cars can do my drive to work in a snow storm, in the dark, then they might be getting somewhere. Otherwise, they are a toy. A cool toy with some tech that will probably be very useful somewhere, but still a toy.
            I work in robotics, so I think I have some idea about the state of the art. And autonomous navigation outdoors is hard if you need the kind of precision required to navigate traffic. An awful lot of what is just obvious to a person is incredibly difficult to implement in a computer program. Progress in the past decade or so has been remarkable, but there is still a long way to go.

            1. It is an extraordinarily difficult answer to a question no one was asking.

    2. I used to be a huge fan of autonomous cars. I still really like the technology for its own sake, but I think there’s a decent security concern that results from the centralization of control. A malicious person driving a car might harm at most a couple dozen others; a security vulnerability (or I guess just a non-malicious bug) in software widespread among autonomous vehicles can easily harm far more than that.

    3. Self-driving cars can’t possibly make the roads safer if they are learning from human drivers – and learning how to avoid crashes from them.

    4. Ron Bailey is wrong about everything. He,s a “science journalist” and that is the primay qualification for the job.

    5. “In other autonews autonomous cars are not safer than human driven ones.”

      A certain neighborhood in SF gets ‘way more than its share of ‘autonomous vehicle testing’; they suck.
      As an example, a double-parked car (that is ANY Lyft or Uber vehicle) causes paralysis; for some reason, the software to date cannot tell the car to drive around the stopped vehicle. And this ‘testing’ is now at least 5 years along.
      It is so bad that the companies working on it are now running ads in various media asking for ‘understanding’, since these things are going to make everything wonderful in the great bye-and-bye.

  5. No worries.
    The roads only have to last another 11 years and a few months. Then the world will end, and it won’t matter.
    Or maybe AOC gets elected, and there are no cars or trucks, so no need for real roads. We can take all the suddenly unemployed health insurance workers and have them repaint the road as bike lanes. And turn the fuel stations into graveyards for the old folks who can’t ride a bike.
    They get too much social security anyway.

  6. The roads are getting worse in America?
    Gee, where did all those billions of dollars go to repair them the past few decades, and how come I didn’t get any of it?

    1. From my personal observations, it looks like they just keep paving the same roads over and over and ignore everything else.

    2. Afghanistan and Iraq?

    3. California raised it’s fuel tax. . . To pay for a train to nowhere.
      Roads aren’t any better. . . Although they did recently repave 3 miles of a heavily-trafficked road from the 99 to the 165.
      They missed the other 10 miles. . .but I’m sure they’ll get on it real soon ????

    4. “The roads are getting worse in America?
      Gee, where did all those billions of dollars go to repair them the past few decades, and how come I didn’t get any of it?”

      Trump spent it on trade wars, weapons, real wars, crony payouts, immigration walls, and other crap.

  7. …. and what other countries do around the fucking world is more important !
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  8. but infrastructure. tarp. shovel-ready.

  9. Nearly 10 percent of New Jersey’s urban highways are in poor condition, despite the state spending $511,266 per lane-mile—the highest disbursement rate in the country—on its highways.

    Did the Reason Foundation change how they calculated this number? A few years ago, NJ was spending over $2 Million per mile.

      1. *golf clap*

  10. God do the roads really suck in the People’s Republic of NJ.

    That cool 500K per lane/mile disbursement doesn’t do shit to fix the roads here. We have no one to blame but ourselves…

    1. Down here in the southern gulags of NJ, our roads look like they’ve been shelled by artillery.

      Except the AC Expressway, which gets repaved every few years. TOLLS WORK.

      1. Every time I go back for a visit, they’ve lowered the speed limits.

  11. “Feigenbaum says federal lawmakers should consider paying out bonuses to states for meeting quantitative performance metrics like reducing congestion and road fatalities. Allowing more toll roads and public-private partnerships would also help generate money for fixing road surfaces.”

    Instead, CA rewards cities for turning over half the roadway to the 1% who bicycle to work.

  12. They recently repaved US 206 from Newton south to Andover, but that stretch didn’t need repaving. What they haven’t done is west of Ross Corner, which needs it badly.

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  14. Tell me about it! I just drove a Peterbilt chassis from Quebec to Alabama. It had no airbags, and I was holding on to the wheel for dear life, trying to keep from bouncing out of the seat. Especially through the state of Pennsylvania.
    But, if you want to see crumbling (literally crumbling) infrastructure, take a spin around Montréal!

  15. The biggest cause of road crashes and deaths is sleep deprived driving. Driving without adequate sleep can be more dangerous than drunk driving. The biggest problem with main roads is that most right hand lanes are not designed to take the constant punishment that the semis dish out. Everywhere you go you will likely find the left most lanes in much better condition than the right hand lane. Since fewer trucks travel in the left lanes, that is the biggest problem. I highly doubt that self driving vehicles will be much safer especially since computer programs tend to go haywire quite often.

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