Call it the pot­hole tax: Bad roads cost driv­ers $515 a year on av­er­age.

The Washington Post Sunday - - BUSINESS - BY CHRISTO­PHER IN­GRA­HAM christo­pher.in­gra­ham@wash­post.com

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.”

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