Before the COVID-19 pandemic, motorists each day drove about 8.8 billion miles on American roadways, while the U.S. railroad system carried 85,000 passengers and 5 million tons of freight. Though travel habits have shifted since the coronavirus outbreak, transportation infrastructure remains vital to the health of the U.S. economy.
Despite the importance of a reliable transportation network, upkeep of critical infrastructure is being neglected across the country as roads, bridges, and railroads age. Nationwide, 21.8% of roads are in poor condition, 7.6% of bridges are in need of replacement or repair, and there have been 4.8 derailments for every 100 miles of train track from 2015 to 2019, the most common cause of which are broken rails or welds. In some states, these figures are far worse, indicating a threat to not only the economy, but to public health and safety as well.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, 24/7 Wall St. created an index to identify the states that are falling apart. The index comprises three measures: the share of roadway in poor condition, the share of bridges considered to be structurally deficient, and the number of train derailments between 2015 and 2019 adjusted per mile of railroad track. One state, Iowa, was not ranked, due to a lack of sufficient data.
When it comes to maintaining transportation infrastructure, different states face different challenges. States in the Northeast and Midwest, for example, often have harsh winters, and the cycle of freezing and thawing can accelerate the deterioration of road surfaces. Similarly, densely-populated states often have traffic congestion that can contribute to wear and tear on roadways. Here is a look at the worst cities to drive in every state.
To maintain transportation infrastructure like roads and bridges, states typically use revenue from taxes levied on gasoline sales. These are the states with the highest and lowest gas taxes.
However, because each state faces a unique set of challenges, greater spending does not always align with better overall conditions — especially as some states have only recently ramped up investment to compensate for past neglect.