Call it the pothole tax: Bad roads cost drivers $515 a year on average.
The shoddy state of the nation’s roads cost the average driver $515 in extra operation and maintenance costs on a car, according to the latest analysis from TRIP, a national transportation research group. Meanwhile, the Highway Trust Fund is about to become insolvent, and congressional lawmakers can’t agree on a temporary fix that experts say is nothing more than a band-aid.
Twenty-eight percent of the nation’s major roadways — interstates, freeways and major arterial roadways in urban areas — are in “poor” condition. This means they have so many major ruts, cracks and potholes that they can’t simply be resurfaced — they need to be rebuilt.
Those cracks and potholes put a lot of extra wear and tear on your car. They wear your tires away faster, and they decrease your gas mileage. All of these factors go into that calculation of $515 in extra annual cost, beyond what you’d pay to maintain your car if the roads were in good condition. Think of it as a pothole tax.
The worst roads in America are in Washington, where 92 percent of our major roadways are rated “poor.” Zero percent of D.C.’s roads received a “good” rating.
Elsewhere, the worst roads are in California where 51 percent of the highways are rated poor. Rhode Island, New Jersey and Michigan all have “poor” ratings of 40 percent or more. Dang.
Florida, the Sunshine State actually has the smallest percentage of bad roads — 7 percent. Nevada, Missouri, Minnesota and Arkansas round out the top five.
I might have expected weather and latitude to play a big role in road quality, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Some northern states such as Minnesota have great quality scores, while some southern ones, such as Texas, don’t look too hot.
Drivers in six states plus the District can expect to pay well over $600 a year in extra vehicle upkeep costs. For drivers in Oklahoma and California, the costs add up to over $760 a year. People in most states pay $400 to $500 extra.
One main reason roads are in such bad shape is that we haven’t been putting enough money into the Highway Trust Fund to keep up with infrastructure needs. Why’s that? The federal gasoline tax remains at 1993 levels (the average driver pays $97 a year).
Raising the tax is unpopular, but these numbers make it clear that nobody’s getting a free ride. “Public agencies are the people who build and maintain the highway system,” said Rocky Moretti, TRIP’s director of policy and research. “But when it’s in lousy shape, it becomes a private cost.”