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.

1 minute read

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

Aerial view of Eugene, Oregon at dusk with mountains in background.

Eugene Ends Parking Minimums

In a move that complies with a state law aimed at reducing transportation emissions, Eugene amended its parking rules to eliminate minimum requirements and set maximum parking lot sizes.

December 3, 2023 - NBC 16

Green Paris Texas city limit sign with population.

How Paris, Texas Became a ‘Unicorn’ for Rural Transit

A robust coalition of advocates in the town of 25,000 brought together the funding and resources to launch a popular bus service that some residents see as a mobility lifeline—and a social club.

November 30, 2023 - Texas Monthly

SMall backyard cottage ADU in San Diego, California.

San Diegans at Odds Over ‘Granny Towers’

A provision in the city’s ADU ordinance allows developers to build an essentially unlimited number of units on single-family lots.

November 29, 2023 - CALmatters

Mission Bay and Potrero Hill

San Francisco Approves Zoning Reforms to Avoid ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The county board of supervisors voted to approve zoning changes that bring it closer to compliance with state housing mandates.

3 hours ago - Reason

Aerial view of housingin Las Vegas, Nevada with desert mountains in background.

Where Are Millennials Moving to?

As the housing crisis rages on, four U.S. states are seeing high levels of new migration from young and middle-aged workers.

4 hours ago - Yahoo Finance

Aerial view of houses against partly cloudy sky in San Mateon County, California.

California Cities Cite Historic Preservation to Block Development

Are some cities using historic designations disingenuously?

5 hours ago - Mercury News

News from HUD User

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

"Rethinking Commuter Rail" podcast & Intercity Bus E-News

Chaddick Institute at DePaul University

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.