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Rhode Island, Oklahoma rank worst in national road study

Road infrastructure is bad all over the US, but the details make a difference.

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Providence is a nice town, but according to a recent study, its roads are anything but.

Flickr user David Friedel

America's road infrastructure is in bad shape. It's one of the very few things that everyone seems to agree on, but because of the massive scale of the problem and the costs involved in fixing it, not much is being done, and the problem is getting worse.

To put in perspective just how bad it's getting, let's take a look at a road study performed by the Federal Highway Administration and interpreted by car insurance website QuoteWizard. The study ranks all 50 states' roads based on three criteria:

  • Percentage of roads rated in "Poor" condition
  • Annual cost per motorist incurred due to road condition
  • Percentage of the state's bridges rated as structurally deficient

Now, while you might expect someplace like New York, Massachusetts or California to rank worst, none of those states even cracks the top five. Which do? Well, at the top of the list is Rhode Island, which has over half (53% to be specific) of its roads rated as poor, 23% of its bridges marked as structurally deficient and an average cost of $823 per driver per year. Pretty impressive for a state with a population of just over a million people.

Next on the list are Oklahoma and West Virginia, with 33% and 31% rated-poor roads, respectively. Rounding out the top five are Mississippi and Pennsylvania with 30% each, though Mississippi edges out PA thanks to its significantly higher cost to motorists -- $820 versus $610.

Another vital factor to consider in all this, though it's not weighted in the rankings, is how much of its budget each state puts toward road maintenance. For Rhode Island, that figure is just 2%. California -- a state with 39 times the population -- spends 35% of its budget on roads and ranks No. 7 on the list. Curious which state spends the most? It's South Dakota, with 69%.

In addition to its lack of spending, there are several factors likely contributing to Rhode Island's spot at the top of the list. Having a tiny population of a million people means that it has a small tax base, and that means money must be tight. It's also got some pretty nasty winters, with freeze/thaw cycles wreaking havoc on the tarmac in the form of dramatically accelerated wear.

What's the solution to all this? At this point, the only thing likely to make a dent in the infrastructure issues plaguing America is a dramatic investment in road and bridge construction by the federal government. Will that come in time to help the people of Rhode Island? It's hard to say, but we hope so.

Representatives from the Federal Highway Administration and from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation didn't immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment.

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