More than a third of the major roads in the nation's largest metropolitan areas are significantly deteriorated and badly in need of reconstruction or resurfacing, says a recently released report from The Road Information Program.
The report, based on Federal Highway Administration data, also concludes that motorists in those areas are paying $16 billion a year in repairs and reduced fuel economy because of the poor roads.
TRIP blames increased traffic -- particularly by big trucks -- as the primary reason that urban motorists must dodge so many potholes these days. Overall travel on urban roads increased 32% between 1988 and 1998. Travel by "large trucks" (tractor trailers and straight trucks with at least six tires) rose 46%.
Yet the nation's investment in roads as a share of overall economic output is well below historical averages. TRIP data shows that highway capital investment has represented about 0.6% of gross domestic product since the early 1980s. From the mid 1950s through the early 1970s, highway capital investment was about 1.5% of GDP.
According to TRIP's analysis, New Orleans and Detroit have the largest number of poor roads but Los Angeles is not far behind. Atlanta fared best with 86% of its major roads rated in "good" condition and none on the "poor" list.