2023 U.S. road conditions by state
Some roads are less traveled for a reason
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Americans love road trips. The U.S. has a massive and complex interstate highway system, making setting out on the open road a classic American pastime — but we all know there are roads in each state that are best to avoid.
Bad roads can be a headache, especially when it comes to time-sensitive holiday travel, and they can lead to expensive car repairs and more frequent collisions. To determine which states have the worst (and best) roads, we analyzed data from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and other government agencies. We also surveyed residents throughout the nation to get drivers’ perspectives on their state’s roads.
- Hawaii has the worst roads, followed by Rhode Island and Louisiana.
- New Hampshire has the best roads, followed by Minnesota and Vermont.
- About 46% of survey respondents who rated their roads 1 out of 10 (terrible) were from California.
- Overall, respondents gave their roads an average score of 4.8 out of 10.
Methodology: Weighted averages were combined with the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Transportation and other government organizations to calculate rankings. Residents in each state rated their local roads on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “terrible” and 10 being “excellent,” though this information is used only anecdotally. Read our full methodology below.
Which states have the worst roads?
We chose the states with the worst roads based on the roughness of the pavement and highway maintenance and safety budgets. Scroll down to check out the full ranked list and see where your state lands.
Hawaii received a D-plus on the most recent Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (released in 2019). More than a quarter of Hawaii’s urban roads come in at more than 170 inches per mile on the International Roughness Index (IRI), a measure of how much a vehicle vibrates based on the roughness of the road and how the wheel hits it. (Roads with an IRI at or above 170 inches per mile are considered in poor condition.)
Other Americans have come to know these rough spots in the pavement well — in 2022, Hawaii saw more than 70 million visitors from other states bumping along the islands’ twisty roads in buses and rental cars.
According to TRIP, a nonprofit that researches surface transportation, 69% of Hawaii’s major roads are in “poor or mediocre” condition, and its drivers spend an average of $818 per person — $772 million total — a year on wear, additional fuel and repairs caused by driving on deteriorated roads.
What do Hawaiians say about their roads?
One of our respondents from Wai`anae, on Oahu, said many of the town’s roads “are in need of repair,” and a driver in Ewa Beach, in Honolulu, mentioned one road in particular “where the asphalt forms mounds around the manhole covers that jar the vehicle terribly.”
2. Rhode Island
It’s not road island. A whopping 75% of Rhode Island’s major roads (and 17% of its bridges) are in poor or mediocre condition, costing the average driver an additional $833 per year. The state received a C-minus on its Infrastructure Report Card in part due to a lack of investment in its road and bridges. This lack of funding is evident in Rhode Island’s poor road construction.
Just over 40% of the state’s major roads ranked poorly, according to the International Roughness Index.
What’s so bad about Rhode Island’s roads?
Though Rhode Island has worked on investing in its roads since 2016 (by 2020, its highway and road expenditure of $666 per capita was slightly higher than in the U.S. as a whole), the Ocean State’s roads are still suffering from a historical lack of funding.
The state’s Department of Transportation has calculated that Rhode Island is missing $378 million in funding for reconstruction and maintenance. This shortfall leads to unsafe road conditions, especially considering how much coastline the state has, making drivers vulnerable to sea rise and extreme weather.
About a quarter of the Bayou State’s roads are considered to be in poor condition, based on pavement roughness. Louisiana received a D-plus on the ASCE’s most recent Infrastructure Report Card, and drivers in the state spend an average of $658 per year on costs related to bad road conditions.
Louisiana has 61,300 miles of public roads, and 46% of its major roadways are in poor or mediocre condition, according to government data analyzed by TRIP. The state also sees more road fatalities per year (1.42 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel) than the U.S. average by state (1.11 per 100 million miles).
What do Louisianans say about their roads?
One respondent from Eunice said most of the roads are in “horrific condition,” and a driver in Egan blamed the poor conditions on the state relying on “patch repairs” rather than fixes that are built to last. Though some drivers in more rural areas, like Destrehan in St. Charles Parish, find their roads decent for being “built on swamp land,” they said they can’t stand the widespread potholes when they visit larger cities like New Orleans.
Just over half (52%) of California’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and drivers in the Golden State spend an average of $808 each per year on costs resulting from driving on bad roads. The state received a C-minus on the ASCE’s Infrastructure Report card.
Fifty-six percent of California’s bridges are at least 50 years old, which means many of them will likely need to be repaired or replaced in the near future. Forty-four percent of its urban roads rank poorly, according to the International Roughness Index.
What do Californians say about their roads?
One driver from Vallejo wrote that “the roads have a lot of dips, cracks, [and] bumps, and it's just really bad. I basically replace my tires every year because of it.” Other drivers mention that potholes, deferred maintenance and ongoing construction regularly affect their daily driving.
Wisconsin received a C on the ASCE’s most recent Infrastructure Report Card, and its roughness index is above 170 inches per mile (in poor condition and hard on vehicles) for about 29% of its urban roads.
According to the ASCE, more than one-third of Wisconsin’s roads are in “fair or below condition,” and this is likely to get worse over the next decade. These conditions mean drivers in the Badger State spend an average of $733 each per year due to excessive wear and tear on their vehicles.
What do Wisconsinites say about their roads?
Our respondents gave their state’s roads a rating of 5 out of 10, on average. A driver from Green Bay said about the city’s roads, “Present roads are constantly patched and the patches last a week at best [and] the damage keeps on growing. The dangerous trip hazards are never addressed.” Other drivers cite potholes, uneven roads and raised pavements as significant problems.
Mississippi is a newcomer on our list — last year, the Magnolia State was ranked right in the middle. In terms of extreme pavement roughness in urban areas, Mississippi ranks slightly better than the average (18.11%) at about 15%, but its roads received a D-minus on the most recent Infrastructure Report Card. This is in part due to the state’s higher-than-average road fatality rate.
Recent data from the Tax Policy Center shows that Mississippi spends $593 per capita on its roads (compared with the U.S. average of $616). Its drivers spend an average of $840 per person on added repairs and maintenance caused by bad road conditions.
What do Mississippians say about their roads?
One driver from Greenville had no reservations when describing the state’s roads: “The roads are just horrible, like huge potholes, uneven narrow roads, horrible blind spots, no visible markings or signs — they are horrible,” they said.
Maybe it makes sense that the Natural State isn’t known for its roads. A recent national report by TRIP shows that Arkansas has the highest percentage of rural roads in poor condition (33%, compared with a U.S. average of 12%). The nonprofit also found that the state’s traffic fatalities jumped 37% from 2019 to 2021.
About 15% of Arkansas’ urban roads rank poorly in terms of pavement roughness, and the average driver spends $733 on additional maintenance and repair each year from driving on deteriorated roads.
What do Arkansans say about their roads?
An Oxford driver put it bluntly: “The majority [of roads] aren’t even paved.” Beyond that, though, the roads that are paved are apparently prone to potholes, which led to a broken axle for one driver in Lonoke (a $1,300 fix).
Colorado received a C-minus on its most recent Infrastructure Report Card. According to the ASCE, the state suffers from low investments in “operation, maintenance, expansion, and innovation to Colorado’s roadways,” leading to as much as $2,306 in added vehicle costs per driver annually in the Denver metro area.
The IRI shows that about 18% of Colorado’s urban road conditions are poor, based on pavement roughness. Recent data from the Tax Policy Center shows that Colorful Colorado spends $599 per capita on its highway system, which is significantly less than what other states in the Rocky Mountain region spend ($742 per capita).
What do Coloradans say about their roads?
One resident said about all the roads within 100 miles of Brighton: “The potholes are huge [and] damage your car before they will fix them. Even parking lots in the shopping centers are horrible. We pay tax on everything here — why aren't they in better condition?” Other drivers complain about road damage caused by winter weather and snowplows.
9. South Carolina
South Carolina didn’t rank too high in terms of pavement roughness — just over 10% of its urban roads are in poor condition, per the IRI. However, the state did receive a D on the ASCE’s most recent Infrastructure Report Card, with the ASCE citing recent increases in population and tourism as strains on the current traffic system.
According to the Tax Policy Center, the Palmetto State spends only $462 per year per capita on highways, which is only 75% of the national average expenditure. According to TRIP, the average driver in South Carolina spends an additional $439 per year on repairs caused by bad road conditions.
What do South Carolinians say about their roads?
Despite the state’s decent showing in pavement roughness, our survey respondents gave South Carolina’s roads an average rating of just 2. One driver blamed population growth and traffic: “Development in the area is outpacing the infrastructure, and the daily increase in population is creating massive traffic delays that could be avoided with improvements to and expansion of existing roadways.” They don’t see hope in coming years, either: “No plans are in the works for the next 10 years. By then it will be too late.”
Iowa scored a C on the recent Infrastructure Report Card, and nearly 20% of its urban roads are in poor condition, based on pavement roughness. This is true despite its relatively high highway expenditure per capita: While the recent average is $616 nationally, Iowa spent $1,033 per capita on its roads in the financial year ending in 2020.
According to a recent report from TRIP, Iowa ranked No. 1 in 2022 for rural bridges in “poor/structurally deficient” condition. A quarter of its major roads are also in poor or mediocre condition.
What do Iowans say about their roads?
According to the Iowa Department of Transportation, Iowa has more miles of publicly maintained roads than the 50 states’ total interstate miles. It also has 1,461 bridges “made primarily of wood and currently open to traffic” — and wooden bridges are more susceptible to insect infestations or rot. Put simply by a driver from Waterloo: The state has a “lot of bad streets and bridges.”
States with the best roads
The states with the best roads frequently perform maintenance on their streets and have significant infrastructure budgets, as well as residents with good things to say about the roads they drive on each day.
1. New Hampshire
Only about 3% of rural roads and 8% of urban roads in New Hampshire are considered poor, according to the International Roughness Index.
Over the last two decades, road travel in the Granite State has increased by 15% — this increase is probably at least partially driven by the state’s 10% population increase over the same period. Recently, a project to widen NH-101 to five lanes between NH-114 and Wallace Road was completed.
A respondent from Portsmouth gave the state’s roads a 6 out of 10 and wrote, “Most roads are OK,” noting that there are “a few roads that need work.” Not the highest praise, but comparatively, it’s pretty good.
Is the Land of 10,000 Lakes as friendly to motorists as it is to aquatic creatures and canoeists? According to recent data from the Tax Policy Center, Minnesota spends $952 per capita on its highways (the U.S. average is $616) per year. Its International Roughness Index for urban roads is the lowest in the country, coming in at just under 5%.
In 2020, Minneapolis topped Redfin’s list of most bikeable cities. This could indicate better road conditions, but not necessarily — one of our survey respondents did complain that the city has “put in walking and biking lanes when more lanes are needed for driving.”
Since 1982, the Vermont Local Roads Program, with financial backing from the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration, has provided seminars, workshops and training throughout the state to fulfill its mission of fostering “a safe, efficient, and environmentally sound surface transportation system by improving the skills and knowledge of the municipal transportation workforce and decision makers.” And it seems to be paying off.
Vermont’s per-capita highway expenditure is $1,082 annually, nearly doubling New England’s average highway funding per capita ($584). Only about 9% of the Green Mountain State’s urban roads and 4% of its rural roads are in poor condition, according to the IRI.
According to the ASCE, Vermont’s roads might be doing OK right now, but the state needs to account for “increasingly severe winter storms” in its future infrastructure budgets and planning.
According to the International Roughness Index, only about 1% of Alabama’s rural roads and 5% of its urban roads are in poor condition, putting it just after Minnesota for the state with the least-rough roads.
One driver in Huntsville said, “99% of the roads I travel have few potholes,” even if there are some roads that “need some work.” A Theodore motorist thought the state’s roads were just OK, arguing that “we need lotto and casinos, [then] we would have more money to spend on roads.”
The recently implemented Rebuild Alabama and the Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation Improvement programs are at work solving new traffic congestion problems in the state, and they’ve already tackled more than 140 road improvements since 2020.
Idaho is known as the Gem State, and we can count its highway system as one of its jewels. The state spends $787 per capita on its highways per year, exceeding average U.S. expenditures by about 28% and the Rocky Mountain region’s by 6%.
According to the Deseret News, Idaho was the fastest-growing state from 2020 to 2021, with a population growth of 2.9% during that time. As of publishing, about 11% of Idaho’s urban roads are in poor condition, based on pavement roughness, but the ASCE warns that the state needs to do more for its infrastructure sooner rather than later to keep up with the growing population.
Dorothy and Toto didn’t travel by car, but if they were on Kansas roads today, they might be happy with what they saw, thanks to recent state funding increases.
Even though one motorist from Wichita gave Kansas roads an 8 out of 10, they noted that “only major roads are improved on a regular basis.” Still, only about 1% of its rural roads and 10% of its urban roads are considered poor by the IRI.
The Tax Policy Center’s most recent findings show that Kansas spends just over the national average ($626 per capita versus $616) on its highways each year.
A driver in Venice we surveyed said their city had no potholes and that the roads are “nicely paved and maintained.” Not everyone in the state is happy with the traffic situation, though — some residents complained about out-of-towners who “don’t know where they are going” overcrowding their roads.
Despite its snowbird problem, the Sunshine State received a C-plus for its roads on the Infrastructure Report Card, which is just higher than the nation’s average score (C-minus). In terms of pavement conditions, over 99% of Florida’s rural roads and about 95% of its urban roads are in fair or good condition, according to the IRI.
According to the International Roughness Index, Georgia has comparatively smooth roads in both urban and rural areas, with just over 1% of its rural roads and about 5% of its urban roads in poor condition.
One driver in Whigham said the roads are in good condition with moderate traffic, but many residents felt more conflicted about the state of the Peach State’s roads. A Stockbridge motorist said, “They fixed some bad [bypasses], but they need more reflectors on dark roads where they need more street lights. … Turning lanes need painted or reflectors in two turning lanes.” Another driver said simply, “Some are good, some are bad.”
Some Georgia drivers are even saltier — one called out county commissioners for being “more interested in developing land” than in improving the infrastructure.
Nevada spends more per capita annually on its highways than any other state in the Far West ($756 versus $599, with a national average of $616).
According to our survey respondents, the Silver State’s roads are acceptable, but they could be better. “There are mostly pretty good roads/streets; however, in other places they are in need of serious repairs,” wrote a driver from Fernley. From another motorist: “Some are well paved, and some are full of potholes and completely neglected!”
One driver gave Nevada’s roads a 10 out of 10 — only 3% of total respondents gave their state a perfect score.
Indiana’s roads come in at No. 10 of the best on our list. Only about 6% of the state’s urban roads and 2% of its rural roads are in poor condition, based on the International Roughness Index.
Still, Indiana’s drivers don’t seem thoroughly impressed. One motorist blames road issues on the state being “farm country” — “any improvements on any roads in the Straughn area are in vain because farmers and their farm equipment keep the roads constantly damaged. Most roads end up getting gravel-topped or chip-and-sealed. Yet, our taxes and wheel tax are expected to be paid annually,” they wrote.
Other drivers felt less passionate: “The roads are pretty good overall, but some of the more rural parts … definitely need work done to the roads,” a Fishers resident said.
State rankings by road condition
Our survey respondents rated their roads at 4.8 out of 10, on average. This is likely somewhat fair — according to the International Roughness Index, about 5% of rural roads and 18% of urban roads are in poor condition, on average, countrywide. The infographic below shows interstate highways in each state. Their color represents the overall road conditions in that state.
|Ranking (worst to best)||Previous year's ranking||Pavement roughness (rural)||Pavement roughness (urban)|
|2. Rhode Island||1||17%||41%|
|9. South Carolina||14||3%||10%|
|14. West Virginia||28||7%||12%|
|18. New York||10||4%||30%|
|23. South Dakota||6||3%||15%|
|25. New Mexico||27||4%||14%|
|27. New Jersey||7||5%||27%|
|32. North Carolina||34||1%||8%|
|36. North Dakota||48||2%||14%|
|50. New Hampshire||44||3%||8%|
To determine which states have the worst roads, we focused on four main factors:
- Percentage of roads in poor, fair and good condition: We considered the percentage of roads the Federal Highway Administration graded as being in poor, fair and good condition. States scored lower for having a higher percentage of roads in poor condition. We also considered overall congestion by state as judged by urban versus rural road mileage.
- Motor crash fatalities on roads per mile: The total number of fatal motor vehicle crashes in each state was sourced from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). We calculated the percentage of each state's fatalities against the sum of all fatalities across all states, looking in particular at the number of fatalities per 100,000 people.
- Amount spent per mile of road: We calculated the dollar amount each state spends per mile of road with data obtained from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Budgetary spending is divided into the following categories: maintenance and services, administration and miscellaneous, and highway law enforcement and safety. For each state, we calculated the percentage of each given category against the state's total road spending.
- Vehicle miles traveled (VMT): We calculated the percentage of each state's rural and urban VMT for the given category against the national sum of all states' VMTs for the given category (in millions).
- Article sources
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: Miles by Measured Pavement Roughness.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: National Highway System Road Length.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Michigan Department of Transportation, “International Roughness Index (IRI).” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- ASCE’s 2022 Infrastructure Report Card, “Roads.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Tax Policy Center, “State and Local General Expenditures, Per Capita.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- TRIP, “Key facts about the condition, performance and funding the U.S. surface transportation system.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Texas A&M Transportation Institute, “2021 Urban Mobility Report and Appendices.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Fatality Facts 2020.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Deseret News, “The fastest growing states in the U.S. are all out West.” Accessed Dec. 9, 2022.
- Hawaii Tourism Authority, “U.S. Fact Sheet.” Accessed Dec. 12, 2022.
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