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San Francisco, Oakland Have the Worst Roads in the U.S.

Lousy street conditions are costing Bay Area motorists almost $1,000 a year, asserts a new report.

Road conditions such as this cratered asphalt in L.A. have pushed California cities to the top of the list of worst U.S. roads. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

Nearly a thousand bucks—that’s how much lousy road conditions are costing you each year if you drive in Oakland or San Francisco.

That’s according to a new infrastructure report IDing these places as collectively having the worst roads in the U.S. Costs incurred from bumping along janky pavement—added vehicle maintenance and repairs, elevated fuel consumption, general depreciation—run an average of $978 in these Bay Area cities, compared to a national average of $523, according to TRIP, a nonprofit transportation group in Washington, D.C.

The report asserts about one-third of major urban roads in the U.S., such as highways and heavily trafficked avenues, are in “substandard” or “poor” condition. In San Francisco and Oakland, 71 percent fall into those dismal categories. Here’s TRIP’s ranking of road conditions in large urban areas (suburbs included) with populations above 500,000:

TRIP

(For medium-sized urban areas, the title of suckiest roads goes to Concord, California; Madison, Wisconsin; and Victorville/Hesperia/Apple Valley, California, respectively.)

While San Francisco and Oakland have meteoric expenses for drivers, they’re not actually top in the nation; that honor goes to Oklahoma City ($1,025 annually), Concord, California ($1,014), and Tulsa ($998). But they are still firmly up there, a fact partly due to aging infrastructure, a transit expert tells ABC 7: “All of these roads were built many years ago. They need to be completely repaired, in some cases replaced.”

Of course, age can’t be blamed for every pothole in the Bay Area, as evident from this 2014 footage from the newly built Bay Bridge:

California drivers who have their cars damaged by badly maintained roads can file claims with the state’s transportation department. And many have done just that: An NBC investigation found the state paid more than $1 million to Bay Area motorists from 2009 to 2012. Statewide, claims filed by drivers from 2007 to 2012 amounted to a whopping $200 million.

H/t SFist

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.