2021 U.S. road conditions by state
Some roads are less traveled for a reason
With the holiday travel season upon us, the ConsumerAffairs Research Team set out to determine which states are the worst (and best) to drive through.
Bad road conditions are more than inconvenient — they can be dangerous and lead to expensive car issues. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), COVID lockdowns did little to decrease road accidents in 2020 and 2021. Traffic-related car crashes actually increased by 4.6% in the first nine months of 2020.
We analyzed government reports and recent email surveys to score states on pavement roughness, road spending per capita and local sentiment. Here are some of our key takeaways from the data:
- Rhode Island has the worst roads, followed by Hawaii, Wisconsin and California.
- Kansas has the best roads, followed by Alabama, North Dakota and Kentucky.
Methodology: Residents in each state rated their local roads on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “terrible” and 10 being “excellent.” Weighted averages were combined with the most recent available data from the U.S. Department of Transportation to calculate rankings. Read our full methodology below.
What state has the worst roads?
The worst roads score high on pavement roughness and low on resident rankings. We also factored in how much states spend on road maintenance and their highway safety budgets. Drop down to the full rankings to see where your state lands.
1. Rhode Island
Rhode Island’s road infrastructure is in bad shape, according to the people who live there.
Many roads are “not smooth,” and some are “just simply crumbling.” According to our survey, Pawtucket roads are especially awful.
Rhode Island’s infrastructure received a C-minus on its Infrastructure Report Card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). The average driver pays $845 per year in costs due to driving on bad roads. In Providence, one resident seems relatively resigned to the fact that it’s terrible: “I'm basically satisfied with the road problem.”
How disappointing — not even an island; not even good roads.
Why are Rhode Island roads so bad?
Nearly half of Rhode Island’s urban roads on the national highway system are more than 170 inches per mile on the International Roughness Index (IRI), a measure of how much vertical movement a vehicle experiences on the road. There are about 150 bridges and more than 860 highway miles considered in “poor” condition by the federal government. Factors contributing to this poor quality include:
- Relatively low highway maintenance budget
- Moisture from rain and snow pushing through the pavement, creating a gap between the road and the ground
- Frequent extreme weather events
Hawaii recently received a D-plus on its Infrastructure Report Card. Currently, there are 84 bridges and more than 664 miles of highway in poor condition. The average driver in Hawaii pays $818 each year on costs related to driving on roads in need of repair.
According to residents who took our road conditions survey in 2019, Hawaiian roads are congested, poorly marked and not consistently maintained. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear much progress has been made since.
Why are Hawaiian roads so bad?
About one-third of all Hawaii’s roads are in bad shape, which could be due to a generally underbuilt roadway system. The Aloha State has fewer roadway miles than any other state per capita. In surveys, Hawaii residents who rate their roads poorly gave the following reasons:
- Potholes and uneven pavement
- Traffic and congestion
- Bad lighting and few guardrails
Wisconsin recently received a C on its Infrastructure Report Card. The Badger State has 198 bridges and more than 1,949 miles of highway in poor condition. Drivers pay about $550 each year to repair damage caused by bad roads.
On average, Americans rate their roads about 6 out of 10.
According to our survey, there are “uneven roads on the freeway” in Milwaukee and “excessive potholes” in Stoddard. They “need to fix holes in streets” in Rhinelander.
One Appleton resident rated their roads poorly because of “a lack of trees and flowers along my city roads.”
Why are Wisconsin roads so bad?
Extreme weather and lack of funding could be to blame. According to our survey, Wisconsinites say the streets are bad due to:
- Holes and cracks in the streets
- Overall traffic levels
- Trash all over the sidewalks
Currently, the Golden State has more than 1,530 bridges and over 14,220 miles of highway in poor condition. California drivers pay about $800 in costs due to driving on bad roads each year.
Those who say their roads are bad frequently mention high gas taxes and shoddy patching jobs. There are “minor bumps and cracks that cause minor discomfort when driving” in La Puente, according to our survey. In San Bernardino, “they just patch them [with] not very good patches. This makes them worse than before with all the bumps from the patches, and when it rains the patches just float away.”
Some think it comes down to politics, with one Lancaster resident saying the local government focuses on pet projects.
The city recently “started a HUGE project of making new medians pretty [instead of] actually working on the roads that have huge potholes and deterioration everywhere,” they said.
Why are California roads so bad?
Some cities are better than others — Los Angeles, San Diego and Fresno residents rated their roads much higher than those in Oakland, Berkeley and San Bernardino. For those in worse-off areas, conditions include:
- Potholes, cracks, rough surfaces and sinking roadways
- Traffic and construction
- Lack of proper maintenance
Massachusetts has 472 bridges and more than 1,194 miles of highway that the federal government considers in poor condition. On average, drivers pay $620 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.
According to our survey, the roads have too many potholes in Boston, Worcester, Lowell, Norwood and Walpole.
“The snow plows have done a number on our roads. Potholes and damage to the streets are a constant nuisance. Southbridge, or Massachusetts roads in general, seem to be in a never-ending loop of construction,” one resident said.
Why are Massachusetts roads so bad?
Many residents blame severe winter weather and snowplows for bumps and potholes. Others say the road conditions are better than they were a few years ago, but they’re generally ranked poorly due to:
- Harsh winters and road salt
- Poor maintenance and repairs
- Uneven asphalt (tough on tires)
6. South Dakota
In South Dakota, there are more than 1,030 bridges and over 2,030 highway miles in poor condition. Each year, drivers pay $562 in costs due to driving on roads needing repair.
The majority of roads in the Rushmore State aren’t even paved. About 75% of South Dakota’s 83,609 miles of roads are gravel or dirt, according to South Dakota Magazine.
A Clark County resident said that Highway 212 to Highway 28 is “atrocious. It's almost undrivable.” Survey respondents rated South Dakota's roads as 2 out of 10 — the worst score on our survey.
Why are South Dakota roads so bad?
“Governor Kristi Noem is hoarding all that coronavirus money until she figures out a way to spend it to fix our roads,” according to the Dakota Free Press. Contributing factors include:
- Poor infrastructure
- Not enough maintenance on rural roads
- Bad lighting and slippery road conditions
7. New Jersey
According to our survey, most of Newark’s streets have “large potholes.” This is a recurring theme across New Jersey.
“They constantly seem to be fixing them, but I don't know whether they aren't doing it right or what,” a Ewing resident said. “They seem to be working on the roads all year long, but they never seem to be fixed.”
Residents also said Belleville side streets are in “bad condition” and that there are “no sidewalks” in Browns Mills. It’s not all bad in Ocean City and Jersey City, though some streets are “terrible” or “should be corrected.”
The U.S. has a $786 billion backlog of road and bridge capital needs.
The Garden State has 502 bridges and over 3,995 miles of highway in poor condition. On average, drivers pay $713 per year in costs due to driving on roads needing repair.
Why are New Jersey roads so bad?
Despite relatively high infrastructure spending, New Jersey residents are grouchy about their streets and highways, especially in urban areas. Not only are the roads bad, but they’re also dangerous, according to recent New Jersey State Police data. Poor conditions in New Jersey include:
- Severe potholes and uneven or unfinished pavement
- Lots of construction
- Not enough sidewalks
Louisiana has 1,634 bridges and over 3,410 miles of highway in poor condition. Since 2011, commute times have increased by 9.3% in the state, and drivers pay an average of $667 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.
According to our survey, there are “potholes everywhere” in Baker. In Opelousas, “the roads are patched and repatched numerous times! There are used tire stores all over this small city and they always have customers!” one resident told us.
A Keithville resident said their streets are “weather worn” and that “age is showing problems.”
Why are Louisiana roads so bad?
A lack of funding leaves Louisiana's streets with much to be desired. The Bayou State’s pavement failure is likely caused by a “combination of traffic, moisture, and climate,” according to recent data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). Poor Louisiana road conditions are thanks to:
- Out-of-date transportation systems
- Not enough state or local funding
- Congestion and lack of safety features
Potholes are a significant concern across the Great Lakes State. “I hit so many potholes and bumps it's unreal. Bent two of my car rims,” a Warren resident told us. In Canton, “they seem mostly just to patch them.”
Kalamazoo’s roads are “awful yet better than those in Battle Creek, which [are] the worst I've ever seen.”
“All the dirt roads have such bad potholes in them … you can’t even drive any faster than 5 miles an hour. If you’re going faster, you might wreck your car,” a resident in Leonard said.
43% of all public roadways in the U.S. are mediocre or poor.
Michigan’s infrastructure received a D-plus grade on its Infrastructure Report Card. There are 1,219 bridges and over 7,300 miles of highway in poor condition. On average, each driver pays $644 per year in costs due to driving on streets that need repairs.
Why are Michigan roads so bad?
Michigan's roads are in poor condition because of potholes, poor road planning and seasonal disruptions, according to the state’s residents. Some attributed the poor road conditions to the government’s use of salt to melt winter ice on the roads, as well as:
- Combination of heavy traffic and poor infrastructure
- Lack of funding
- Freeze-and-thaw cycles during winter months
10. New York
New York has put a lot of effort into urban road construction over the last few years, but many residents still aren’t happy.
According to our survey, the “patch work is ... poorly done” in Manhattan and “potholes [and] blocked lanes” remain an issue in Brooklyn. Bronx roads “are being ruined by new traffic patterns (islands and potholes) construction.”
Despite some apparent progress, survey respondents across the state report excessive potholes, shoulder deterioration and “half-assed repairs.”
Survey respondents also said that “there has been little or no repairs done on the local roads” in Hempstead and that the “country roads are not kept up that good” in Keuka Park.
Overall, the Empire State has 1,702 bridges and over 7,292 miles of highway in poor condition. On average, each driver pays $625 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair.
Why are New York roads so bad?
According to our survey, some residents blame their terrible road conditions on a lack of funding and botched repair jobs, among other factors:
- Traffic and congestion
- Lack of state and local funding
- Not enough highway and bridge maintenance
Worst road conditions, ranked by state
On average, Americans rate their roads at about 6/10. Across the country, about 5% of rural roads and 16% of urban roads are in poor condition, according to the International Roughness Index (IRI).
|Worst roads||Average resident rating*||Poor pavement roughness (rural)**||Poor pavement roughness (urban)**|
|1. Rhode Island||6.5||26%||42%|
|6. South Dakota||2||4%||15%|
|7. New Jersey||4.83||10%||31%|
|10. New York||5.85||5%||30%|
|14. South Carolina||4||4%||12%|
|27. New Mexico||4.5||3%||14%|
|28. West Virginia||6.5||8%||12%|
|34. North Carolina||5.69||2%||9%|
|44. New Hampshire||6||4%||10%|
|48. North Dakota||10||2%||16%|
*We surveyed 1,027 people via email between Oct. 30 and Nov. 8, 2021. Respondents were asked to rate their local roads on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being “terrible” and 10 being “excellent.”
**According to the U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s “Highway Statistics Series.”
States with the best roads
The best roads are highly rated by the people who drive on them. These states also have more funding for maintenance and infrastructure.
Kansas gets first place on the list of best roads this year, likely thanks to increased funding.
“Our roads have just had a facelift and I think it's great,” a Cherryvale resident told us via email survey.
According to other residents, the “city roads are safe and clean” in Olathe, and Wichita “just did a lot of road resurfacing.”
Since the Rebuild Alabama Act passed, the state has been making it a priority to repave and improve the streets. “Now the roads are wider and the traffic is better,” a Zuni resident told us.
According to our survey, there are “great roads in Chelsea,” and “most of the roads are good” in Worthington. “The traffic is pretty good” in Lombard.
“I have done a lot of traveling and our roads are by far better than most places I've been,” a Mobile resident said.
3. North Dakota
North Dakota stands out for its interstate pavement condition. The majority of urban roads are in good condition, and only about 2% of rural roads are considered in poor condition by the federal government.
Roads are also rated highly by the people who live there. The streets are “very clean,” according to a resident of Wing via email survey.
Kentucky spends the most considerable portion of its road budget on road maintenance (86%), with only 4% going to administration and 9% to law highway law enforcement and safety". Like North Dakota, most urban roads are in good condition, and only about 2% of rural roads are considered in poor condition by the federal government.
The roads are clean and the traffic systems are good, according to our survey. However, a Carrsville resident said that the “backstreets are in bad shape.”
Florida’s infrastructure stands out as among some of the best in the country: 71% of its urban roads and 88% of its rural roads are in good shape, according to the International Roughness Index.
“We have had new roads built to handle the influx of people every year. We have roundabouts instead of four-way stops, we have multiple lanes, three on each side of a road, with at least one or more turning lanes too,” a Port Charlotte resident told us.
“For the most part, the roads of Miami along freeways and throughout the city are kept up and maintained,” another resident said. People also told us that the roads are “clean, tidy and safe” in Tallahassee.
However, in Nokomis, “there are many roads west of US-1 that are in bad need of repair.” A West Palm Beach resident said the only “big issues” are with the main highways.
Statewide, the roads are in good condition, considering Idaho’s relatively small population compared with its miles of roads. Idaho gets a lot of traffic from road-trippers on its scenic byways and main roads.
In our survey, Caldwell residents reported “smooth roads” and “no potholes.” Plus, it’s “easy to travel” because of simple north-south, east-west directions.
According to a resident in Columbus, its roads are “beautiful, clean and orderly.”
7. New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, the majority of both urban and rural roads are in good condition. Only 4% of rural roads and 10% of urban roads are considered poor, according to the International Roughness Index (IRI).
“Most of the roads in Concord are usually well maintained, with very good signage. Maintenance is usually kept up to date as well,” a resident told us via email survey.
A project to improve access from the F.E. Everett Turnpike to the Manchester Airport has recently been completed. Currently, a project to widen NH-101 to five lanes from NH-114 to Wallace Road is under construction.
New Hampshire is also one of the safest states to live in.
People like that Savannah roads are “smooth,” Norcross lanes are “wide,” and Atlanta’s city streets are “clean,” according to our survey.
“There are still some minor repairs taking place. But due to the SPLOST tax credit, they have done lots of repairs,” a Jonesboro resident said. SPLOST is the special-purpose local-option sales tax. Any county can levy the optional 1% sales tax to pay for roads, schools, parks and other public facilities.
“I have lived here 16 years and have never encountered a pothole or anything in our roads that would be harmful to our car. Brunswick does a good job in keeping our roads paved, clean and safe,” according to another survey respondent.
Others said there are “no potholes” in Fayetteville and that Vinings has “outstanding road repair service.”
According to recent news, Nevada may not have the best drivers — but its infrastructure is in pretty good shape.
Only 8% of urban roads are in poor condition, and none of the rural roads surveyed by the federal government are considered poor on the International Roughness Index (IRI).
According to our survey, both the streets and highways in Las Vegas are “very smooth. They are always keeping up old streets and roads. And they are building more for the expected growth.”
While the roads are in good condition, some lane markings are dull, one resident said.
Vermont seems like a lovely place to live — and to drive. Overall, its road conditions are relatively safe, and there are plenty of scenic byways to attract day-trippers from surrounding states.
The Green Mountain State’s roads are ranked toward the bottom of the country’s best. There are still potholes in Montpelier and Burlington, according to our survey, and one Middlebury resident told us that “road traffic maintenance is lacking.”
To determine which states have the worst roads, we focused on four main factors:
- A ConsumerAffairs email survey: We surveyed 1,027 people across all 50 states via email between Oct. 30 and Nov. 8, 2021. The survey asked respondents in all 50 states to rate their roads on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being terrible and 10 being excellent. Survey respondents were given an opportunity to explain why they chose their rating.
- 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 worst 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).
- 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.
- ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. To learn more about the content on our site, visit our FAQ page.
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: Miles by Measured Pavement Roughness.” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: Total Disbursements for Highways, All Units of Government.” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: Selected Measures for Identifying Peer States.” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
- U.S. Federal Highway Administration, “Highway Statistics Series: National Highway System Road Length.” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
- Michigan Department of Transportation, “International Roughness Index (IRI).” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
- ASCE’s 2021 Infrastructure Report Card, “Roads.” Accessed Dec. 6, 2021.
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