The Cult of Cars, Racing and Everything That Moves You.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Here's Why America's Roads Are Total Shit

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Did you hear? U.S. roads are total shit! Our bridges are a fucking mess, too! And a new report issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers reaffirmed this assessment in the latest edition of its infrastructure report card. How’d we do? A D+.


That’s better than the society’s specific report for our roadways. In that department, we scored a D. It can’t be so bad, right? What’s it like out there? Take it away, engineers:

America’s roads are often crowded, frequently in poor condition, chronically underfunded, and are becoming more dangerous. More than two out of every five miles of America’s urban interstates are congested and traffic delays cost the country $160 billion in wasted time and fuel in 2014.

One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition and our roads have a significant and increasing backlog of rehabilitation needs. After years of decline, traffic fatalities increased by 7% from 2014 to 2015, with 35,092 people dying on America’s roads.



Ever since we started recovering from the recession of the mid-2000s, Americans have been driving more. As you’d expect, congestion is worse. “Of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, all but five saw increased traffic congestion from 2013 to 2014,” the report says. “In 2014, Americans spent 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic—42 hours per driver. All of that sitting in traffic wasted 3.1 billion gallons of fuel. The lost time and wasted fuel add up—the total in 2014 was $160 billion.”

Mmm... 6.9 billion hours in delayed traffic. Nice.


That above photo, though? That’s relevant. President Donald Trump may hope to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, but consider that one of the most expensive drops in any bucket ever. The ASCE says we need something closer to $4.6 trillion to improve things. Another cut from the report:

The U.S. has been underfunding its highway system for years, resulting in a $836 billion backlog of highway and bridge capital needs. The bulk of the backlog ($420 billion) is in repairing existing highways, while $123 billion is needed for bridge repair, $167 billion for system expansion, and $126 for system enhancement (which includes safety enhancements, operational improvements, and environmental projects).


So, one of the group’s recommendations calls for raising the federal motor fuels tax—18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline, 24.4 cents per gallon on diesel—by tying it to inflation.

More from the report can be found here—public transit, for instance, scored worse than roads—but one thing’s clear: We’re going to be thrashing around some bumpy drags for years to come.


Correction: A previous version of this post stated the society estimated we need $4.6 billion to fix our roads, but we were off a few zeros. It’s $4.6 trillion. We’re sorry for the error.