NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Some States Don't Maintain Their Roads

November 12, 1998

Car owners in the United States spend roughly $6 billion a year to repair cars damaged by urban freeways and expressways. States could reduce consumers' car repair bills if they spent federal highway funds more effectively, concludes a new study from the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP).

STPP -- a coalition of transportation advocacy organizations and government agencies -- claims states spent more than half of the flexible federal highway funds they received in the 1996-1997 period to build new roads, compared with an average of only $2.7 billion spent annually for road repairs . (Flexible funds are those not earmarked for specific projects.)

Yet in 1996, a majority of the most heavily traveled freeways and principal arterials -- those in metropolitan areas -- were only in mediocre, poor or fair shape.

  • Based on state data regarding the condition of roads, 57 percent are in less than good condition.
  • In Oregon, 92 percent of the urban and suburban highways are rated in less than good condition.
  • Illinois is close behind, with 90 percent, followed by Colorado, Pennsylvania and Louisiana.
  • And of large metropolitan areas, those with the poorest roads are Virginia Beach-Newport News-Norfolk, Va., Chicago, New Orleans, Denver and San Diego.

The STPP also developed a "Pothole Index," based on how much of its flexible federal funds each state spent on repairs per mile of urban highway in need of repair. For instance, in the 1996-1997 period Arkansas spent the least per mile to repair its roads, followed by Maryland, Colorado, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Michigan, Virginia, New York, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Source: "Potholes & Politics 1998," November 1998, Surface Transportation Policy Project, 1100 17th St., NW, 10th floor, Washington D.C., 20036, (202) 466-2636.


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