Opinion Columns & Blogs

Florida is nation’s best state for its roads and bridges

The nation’s roads and bridges aren’t in good shape. Twenty-five percent of bridges are rated deficient or obsolete. Fourteen percent of roads are in poor condition. But amid the potholes and crumbling pylons, one state stands out: Florida ranks near the top in nearly every measure of road transportation.

Just 4 percent of the Sunshine State’s roads are in disrepair, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. Seventeen percent of the bridges in Florida are obsolete or deficient. In both cases, only a handful of states – Utah and Nevada chief among them – rank higher. The quality of Florida’s roads means drivers there pay less to maintain their vehicles, about $181 per year, than those in any other state.

Part of what sets Florida apart, according to transportation policy experts, is that it has a system of tolls, user fees and taxes that ensures infrastructure funding keeps flowing.

Gas taxes in Florida, the 11th-highest in the country, add about 36 cents to the cost of a gallon of fuel, the American Petroleum Institute reports. The state’s gas tax adjusts each year based on inflation, said Jeffrey Brown, chairman of the department of urban and regional planning at Florida State University. So do tolls and user fees, which are higher in Florida than in all but five other states.

That means Florida gets most of its transportation money, 68.8 percent, not from a general fund but from dedicated revenue streams. Only Delaware and Hawaii get higher shares of their transportation revenue from dedicated funding. Those who use the roads are the ones paying to maintain them.

Weather is also a factor in maintaining roads. No wonder, then, that most of the states with the worst roads are in snowier climes: More than 40 percent of roads in Rhode Island and Connecticut are in poor condition. At least 20 percent are in bad shape in Washington.

That costs drivers in those states some serious cash. The civil engineers’ group estimates that drivers pay more than $500 a year, on average, to operate their vehicles in the nine states with the worst road conditions.

So this winter, more residents of the Northeast and the Midwest might consider decamping to sunny Florida, where their cars will have an easier time on some of the country’s best roads.