18 Cities With the Worst Roads in America

The U.S. is a heavily car-dependent nation, with vast geographical distances and infamously poor public transport. But some urban roadways can be unsafe, with potholes, cracks, and disrepair plaguing drivers. Here, we highlight the 18 cities notorious for having the very worst roads in America. Better put your seatbelt on!

Los Angeles, California

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The Los Angeles Times reports that “about 64% of roads in greater Los Angeles are in poor condition. Potholes and rough pavement cost local drivers about $832 a year.” The high volume of traffic in L.A. damages roadways while making repairs more difficult and inconvenient. Areas like the 405 and the 101 are particularly notorious for their rough roads.

San Francisco, California

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California again! San Francisco’s narrow streets may be picturesque, but they’re also marred by potholes and uneven pavements. Hoodline states it has the worst roads in America, with 71% of all roadways being rated as “poor” and only 6% being considered “good.” Heavy traffic, frequent (yet insufficiently scaled) roadworks, and steep topography exacerbate the problem.

Detroit, Michigan

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According to Crain’s Detroit Business, the city’s roads reflect its economic struggles. Limited funds for maintenance lead to widespread disrepair and an inability to ‘catch up’ with a mountain of potholes, cracks, and uneven pavements. Freezing conditions don’t help either, as freeze-thaw damage tends to enlarge small cracks over time.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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New Orleans may have a vibrant culture and history, but its roads are seriously holding it back. The city is below sea level and frequently floods, so its roadways quickly deteriorate due to water damage. Poor government decisions and unwise public spending have also resulted in depleted funds for road infrastructure repairs.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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Milwaukee drivers face deep potholes at every turn, largely due to insufficient road maintenance and freeze-thaw during the harsh Wisconsin winters. TMJ4 reports that this costs Milwaukee drivers around $2,500 extra a year on car repairs. The city’s aging infrastructure clearly struggles to keep up with the ever-increasing number of vehicles on the roads.

Oakland, California

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Roads in Oakland suffer from years of neglect and insufficient maintenance, with large potholes and cracked pavement being all too common. The main cause seems to be budget constraints that have left the city playing catch-up with repairs instead of keeping their roadways taken care of, prompting constant complaints from residents.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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Decoding USA bluntly states, “Philadelphia roads are terrible because of old infrastructure, weather issues, lack of maintenance, low budget, poverty, and corruption.” The city’s historic streets may look charming, but they’re frequently clogged with traffic (particularly at peak times), and the sheer number of vehicles has led to damaged and neglected roadways.

Baltimore, Maryland

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As in Pennsylvania, Baltimore’s roads suffer from being old and almost ubiquitously in need of simultaneous repair. The city’s fluctuating temperatures damage road surfaces constantly as water trickles into cracks, freezes and expands at night, and then melts—repeating the process and widening the crack.

Washington, D.C.

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The roads in the nation’s capital are often criticized for their condition. The Washington Post states that 92% are classified as “poor,” with potholes and uneven surfaces commonly encountered by road drivers. Once again, high traffic volumes and changing weather conditions are largely to blame.

Seattle, Washington

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Seattle’s recent rapid growth has put a strain on its roads, with traffic congestion leading to excessive wear and tear on roadways that are often inadequate and unable to cope with the number of vehicles. Efforts to maintain the road are often undermined by water damage due to the city’s climate of high rainfall.

Boston, Massachusetts

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According to CBS News, Massachusetts has some of the worst roads in America, and Boston’s narrow, winding streets are in particularly poor condition—indeed, it’s listed as one of five cities in the state with the worst potholes. Aging roadways, severe winters (freeze/thaw again!), and heavy traffic contribute to the degradation.

Chicago, Illinois

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The Windy City is another snowy location that suffers from potholes due to the repetitive and destructive freeze-thaw cycle. Roads are notorious for their potholes, which seem to increase in number and size every year. Residents complain of associated damage to their vehicles, particularly at higher driving speeds.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Pittsburgh’s hilly terrain and harsh winters create challenging road conditions, so potholes and bumpy surfaces are a common sight. The city’s aging infrastructure doesn’t help, as government spending struggles to keep up with the deterioration of roadways, leading to widespread neglect.

Cleveland, Ohio

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According to Cleveland 19 News, the city is tied 6th place with Akron for the unglamorous title of ‘worst roads in America.’ The Midwest’s typical freeze-thaw cycle has led to a proliferation of cracks, potholes, and uneven pavements, while the city’s constant efforts to repair and maintain the roads seem insufficient.

Houston, Texas

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Houston has experienced rapid growth, and consequently, its infrastructure has struggled to keep up. Heavy rainfall combined with expandable clay soils makes flooding, water damage, and associated potholes a big problem. Given the conditions, roadways need to be resurfaced at least every 40 years—something the city’s budget can’t afford.

Honolulu, Hawaii

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Hawaii does not rank well on road conditions overall, but its capital is often cited as having the worst roads. Heavy congestion, insufficient maintenance, and illegible street signs make driving in Honolulu difficult. The city’s many potholes cause excessive damage to vehicles, and this leads to extra repair costs every year.

Atlanta, Georgia

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Atlanta has a major congestion problem and suffers from varying weather conditions throughout the year and even between districts, making road maintenance challenging. Once again, the number and size of potholes are common complaints, as is the unsatisfactory bumpiness of road surfaces.

Denver, Colorado

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A combination of heavy snowfall in the winter and hot summer temperatures strains Denver’s roadways, leading them to deteriorate quicker than in more even climates. The Denver Gazette says its city has some of the worst roads in the nation, partially due to the dreaded freeze-thaw cycle that plagues so many other cold-winter cities.

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