Before the COVID-19 pandemic, each day, motorists 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. And during a typical Labor Day holiday weekend, we would expect to see excess traffic on our roads and railways as millions of Americans travelled to their holiday destinations. Even though our typical 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 for traffic flow and goods movement, 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. The severity of these infrastructure issues vary from state to state, with some states ranking far worse, indicating a threat not only to the economy, but to public safety as well.
Using data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, news agency 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.
When it comes to maintaining transportation infrastructure, different states face different challenges. States such as California, which have many densely populated urban regions, often suffer from traffic congestion that can contribute to wear and tear on roadways. This was reflected in the poor ranking California received for roadways.
In 24/7 Wall Street’s index of states with the worse infrastructure overall, California ranked 7th out of 50 states. Here is the break down of the statistics for each of the individual criteria, as well as information on how much California spends on highway maintenance per licensed driver:
- Roadway in poor condition: 34.9% (8th highest in the nation)
- Structurally deficient bridges: 7.0% of bridges (24th lowest)
- Locomotive derailments: 369 (7.6 per 100 miles of track – 5th most out of 49 states)
- State highway spending per licensed driver: $431 (9th lowest)