California roads rated worst in nation

| 1/2/2002

According to a study released Dec. 27, California's roads are the worst in the nation. The findings were based on roadway quality and per capita dollars being spent to improve roads.

In 2000, the state's roads were ranked third worst in the nation. With 37 percent of 168,000 miles of state and local roads rated poor, the Golden State has fallen to dead last on the list for 2001, according to The Road Information Program, which prepared the study. Other states with the dubious distinction of being ranked in the bottom five were Louisiana, 27 percent; Massachusetts, 25 percent; and New Jersey and Missouri, 21 percent.

"A generation of underinvestment in California's streets, highways, overpasses and bridges has resulted in a shameful deterioration of what once was a showcase transportation network," said Larry Fisher, executive director of Transportation California, a transportation advocacy and public education organization.

Travel in California increased 97 percent between 1980 and 2000, and population increased 42 percent in the same period. Yet, California invested less per person in transportation than any state, according to the report. This underinvestment has had an adverse impact on travel, safety and drivers' pocketbooks.

California ranks first nationally in extra vehicle operating costs that motorists pay when driving on congested, rutted roads. California motorists collectively pay $12 billion, or $558 individually, in extra vehicle operating costs annually as a result of driving on roads in poor, mediocre and fair condition. Reducing the percentage of poor and mediocre roads to 20 percent, respectively, would save the average motorist $215 annually, and all California drivers $4.7 billion.

More than a third of the state's roads are now in mediocre shape, according to the report. In addition, three out of 10 of the state's overpasses and bridges have deficiencies that must be addressed. The California Transportation Commission estimates that the state's unfunded transportation needs top $115 billion. To reverse the trend of decaying roads, a proposal on the state's March ballot would reportedly earmark the sales tax on fuel for transportation, dedicating more than a billion dollars per year for roads, bridges and transit.