Potholes. Steel plates. Grooved pavement. Faults in America’s roadways seem to be increasingly common, as does the traffic from road work.

The roadways that connect our homes, businesses, cities, and states are a crucial part of America’s infrastructure, but seem to be in terrible condition. Is it really as bad as our personal anecdotes make it out to be?

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, the percentage of roadway considered to be in poor condition has risen over the last decade from 15 percent to 17 percent.

The relationship between our road conditions and amount of time the average American spends in traffic (97 hours in 2018 according to a report by INRIX, Inc.) is frustrating, as it seems we are constantly stuck in traffic but rarely seeing or experiencing the benefits of these construction projects that keep us stuck in slow motion, or no motion, on the roads.

The deterioration of our roads cost more than our time and frustration, they also cost us money.

Financially, there are multiple ways in which the average American is impacted. Those 97 hours of traffic in a year means wasted fuel, which means wasted money, $1,348 per person according to the same report.

A report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimated 54 hours spent in traffic, equating to $1,080 in lost fuel. It’s important to note that this report is based on trends from 1982 to 2017 compared to INRIX, Inc.’s report for 2018. This demonstrates that Americans are bearing the burden more so each year.

Americans are also financially impacted by the roads in the form of auto repair from pothole-related damages. According to the American Automobile Association (or “triple A”), “most pothole-related repairs cost less than $250, but in some cases the bill can exceed $1,000; the average repair cost is $306.”

Of course, American’s also pay for the roads in the form of taxes. We pay 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline, in ordinance with the Highway Trust Fund, as well as various gas taxes depending on which city and state you’re filling up in.

The Highway Trust Fund tax has not been raised since 1993 despite changes in the economy and automobile industry, such as inflation and the development and popularity of electric cars. These changes mixed with our road conditions exemplify the dire need for an alternate form of taxation such as a miles traveled tax or a gas tax increase.

Last year, Aii asked you what you would prefer out of those two options, and here’s what you had to say.

This policy blog comes on the heels of President Joe Biden’s proposed infrastructure bill, in which he plans to spend $621 billion on transportation infrastructure and $115 billion on highways, bridges, and roads specifically.

The need for infrastructure policy is seen by members of both sides of the aisle, as Donald Trump proposed his own policy during his administration. Though infrastructure reform as a whole has bipartisan support, partisan disagreements on how much to spend, where to spend it, and how to pay for it have halted any major infrastructure policy.

While the debates on those issues continue, one issue remains clear: America’s roads need help. Until we are able to rethink policy, roads will continue to need help at the expense of the citizens they serve.


Written by John Cassibry, Media Coordinator


The Alliance for Innovation and Infrastructure (Aii) is an independent, national research and educational organization. An innovative think tank, Aii explores the intersection of economics, law, and public policy in the areas of climate, damage prevention, energy, infrastructure, innovation, technology, and transportation.