Study: U.S. Highway Pavement Conditions Worse in Underserved Communities

The Federal Highway Administration doesn’t analyze the condition of pavement on U.S. highways. If it did, it would find vast inequities depending on which communities live nearby highway infrastructure.

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August 31, 2022, 6:00 AM PDT

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell

A graph showing pavement conditions relative to undersewrved racial and ethnic populations, showing that pavement quality declines where more underserved populations live.

GAO analysis of Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Data. | U.S. Government Accountability Office /

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released research on the condition of pavement on the nation’s highways—finding that differences in pavement condition break down along income and racial lines.

“Most of the pavement on our nation's highways—covering about 220,000 miles of roads—is in good or fair condition. But highway pavement is less likely to be in good condition in urban areas, localities with higher family poverty rates, and areas with higher percentages of underserved racial and ethnic populations,” according to the website that shares the data.

The website also calls on the Federal Highway Administration to routinely examine state data on pavement conditions to better address inequities in pavement conditions.

“The National Highway System is key to the nation's economy, defense, and mobility. It comprises approximately 220,000 miles of roads and accounts for about 54 percent of all vehicle miles traveled. Poor pavement condition on National Highway System roads could pose safety issues and impede the flow of traffic,” according to the GAO.

At the local level, the city of Oakland, California made news a few years ago by focusing road repair and reconfiguration work in underserved neighborhoods, recognizing the effects of inequity in maintenance work over the years.

Thursday, July 28, 2022 in U.S. Government Accountability Office

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