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Old 01-02-2012, 10:23 AM   #1
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Are Roads Getting Worse?

It might be a case of misplaced nostalgia, or I might be noticing a real change - I am not sure yet. But the roads seem to be in a state of decay that has me worried.

I began Xcountry travel when I was 12 and the family moved around for a few years in the 60s. We crossed the country a few times. Memory is not always to be trusted, but I think the roads were much better then. Today, it seems no matter where we are in California, the roads are a mess. Two things I notice in particular. First, even though some roads have been repaved with asphalt, they are full of huge swales. At 55MPH you can nearly launch your vehicle going over these waves. And this is on freeways, not secondary roads. And second, the concrete roads are so cracked and patched that it is like driving over railroad ties. It seems to beat the car to death.

And lots of the roads here are under construction, but the primary reason is widening. This results in miles of k-rails laid down on the lane edges making trailering even a bit more nerve wracking due to the narrow "chutes" as I call them.

For those who have been on the road for years - what say you? Worse or better roads?
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:38 AM   #2
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Red,

Even if I felt the roadz are better the traffic and manners are much worse.

Bob
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:42 AM   #3
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I run A LOT of work road miles each year. Roads were better up till 3 years ago, when the economic trouble started. They have steadily gotten worse. It appears those "shovel ready" jobs were already in process or are a lot of 2 lane little stream bridges now connecting road surfaces FULL of decaying asphalt surfaces ant potholes.
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:46 AM   #4
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Yes, I think they are worse. Blame the Gov or blame us. The size (weight) of truck and auto traffic has increased dramatically over the years, and there is much more of it. Repair funds are most probably getting scarce. We ask for repairs but don't want to pay the taxes, drive and ship more then complain about the condition of the roads.

Vote for who you want, it won't matter. The roads can't take what we give them, and we don't like to pay taxes.

As individuals we can and will look for ways to soften the ride. Many have been talked about here on the forums.

doug k
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:48 AM   #5
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Yes, I think they are worse. Blame the Gov or blame us. The size (weight) of truck and auto traffic has increased dramatically over the years, and there is much more of it. Repair funds are most probably getting scarce. We ask for repairs but don't want to pay the taxes, drive and ship more then complain about the condition of the roads.

Vote for who you want, it won't matter. The roads can't take what we give them, and we don't like to pay taxes.

As individuals we can and will look for ways to soften the ride. Many have been talked about here on the forums.

doug k
Well, the road taxes are "SUPPOSED" to be a function of fuel use tax. Although the rate at the Fed and (my) state fuel tax hasn't risen for awhile, the consumption has.

BTW, all the toll roads in metro Chicago (which is ALL of the highways under the IL Tollway Authority) saw a huge (50%, I think) rate hike effective today. Happy New Year!
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Old 01-02-2012, 10:54 AM   #6
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Another aspect of this deterioration I noticed is that there are fewer rest stops, and the ones available are in worse (disgusting really) condition than I remember.

To put a poetic slant to it, my recollection of driving in the 60s was "Welcome to the Highways of America! Relax! Enjoy! Traveling by car is a wonderful thing!" Now, it's more like, "Gee, too bad you have to travel by car. Good luck out there!"

I guess we won't be seeing a return of roadside attractions, and HoJos right at the side of the road?
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Old 01-02-2012, 11:04 AM   #7
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I guess we won't be seeing a return of roadside attractions, and HoJos right at the side of the road?

Ahh...the past.

Bob
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Old 01-02-2012, 11:32 AM   #8
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Thanks for that pic Robert! Now that's my fantasy of a road trip!
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Old 01-02-2012, 11:37 AM   #9
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Many of us old guys remember the roads of the '50's and even '40's. Four lane highways were rare and most of the cross country driving experience was looking for a place to pass interstate trucks. The interstate system, mostly built from the late '50's and into the early '70's, made it much easier to travel fast and comfortably. They were, and remain, boring. They drew most truck traffic from the other roads and travel on them became much better too.

There were less than half as many people in the US back in the '40's and that partly accounts for the increase in traffic. Women started driving and working and that makes a lot of difference too. Less proportional use of rail for cargo transportation increased truck traffic too. In the '70's, federal rules were relaxed on the weight a truck could carry and that resulted in the grooves that develop on heavily used highways from the truck wheels. The highways were not built to carry that weight and damage to roads and bridges increased.

Living in the Rockies for more than 30 years has spoiled me. Traffic is much lighter, but has increased in the fast growing cities and reminds me of the northeast. One thing I have noticed is that the more population density, the worse of roads. It is no surprise to me California (where taxes are nearly impossible to increase for road maintenance), Illinois and northeastern states, for ex., have the worst roads. But Colorado has grown a lot too, traffic in Denver has become a major pain, and maintenance can't keep up (taxes are very hard to increase here too). The recent frenzy to reduce deficits means roads will probably deteriorate more over the short term. Here county revenues keep dropping (dropping sales taxes are a prime source of money) and plowing is less frequent, weed cutting has been cut back, and county roads aren't being maintained as frequently.

So, it feels to me highways got better and better through the '70's, and starting 30 years ago, states and the federal government couldn't keep up as tax revenues were diverted elsewhere or reduced so much there was just enough to keep us ahead of a transportation crisis. Americans have always been bad at long range planning, but somewhat good at crisis management, so when few more major bridges collapse and potholes are tearing up enough suspensions, I suppose we will have a War on Potholes and spend real money on transportation.

Transportation is part of the broader area of communications. Nations with the best communications thrive, others don't. We are also far behind other developed and developed countries on broadband and costs of communication (cell phones, data plans, cable, satellite) are very high and not affordable to significant parts of the population.

Gene
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Old 01-02-2012, 11:48 AM   #10
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Very thoughtful Gene - - thanks.

We live on US101 in Northern Ca. Now, that's one of our most major highways and runs the length of the state. We often travel this road north into Oregon. North of us, and particularly in the Crescent City area, this road is getting nearly undriveable. It is torn up, pot holed, patched beyond belief and looks like it was bombed in a war. It's just crazy to me to be in such a rich state (and man is it rich) and have major roads in this condition?
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Old 01-02-2012, 12:27 PM   #11
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We too have experienced bad roads in Cal. as well as elsewhere. We've taken most of 101 a number of times and don't remember it as especially bad except at Crescent City, but I am not surprised it is getting bad.

As gas mileage improves, gas tax revenues drop. If gas taxes and vehicle taxes don't go up, roads will get worse. At some point, people will rebel, taxes will be increased, but it will take years and years to catch up as we fall further and further behind. I don't expect this to improve much in my lifetime. Maybe there will someday be real money behind high speed rail and that should help as fewer people use the roads, but population increase is inevitable. I suppose we will all be driving slower to avoid the holes looking for a state park that is still open or going to deteriorating national parks.

You may notice that while towing every bump is magnified. This makes the roads feel even worse.

I am not telling a happy story, but you can still enjoy your Airstream (keep the vents open for condensation too).

Gene
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Old 01-02-2012, 12:29 PM   #12
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Ahh...the past. Bob
Seligman, AZ..... that's still the present!

For now anyway.
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Old 01-02-2012, 01:40 PM   #13
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In my part of the world, we have had a huge political war over money and how it's spent. Our governor wanted to invest to maintain our roads while the education system lobbied for the revenue.

The education system won, and thus over time our roads will get worse.
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Old 01-02-2012, 01:48 PM   #14
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When you combine state and federal taxes we are all paying close to 50% of our income to taxes. I dont know about you all but that is a lot of taxes paid by all.
The problem as I see it is that the politicians in charge of spending our money are spending it on pet projects not intended for their original purpose. In Calif where I live for example the people voted a themselves a tax increase years ago to maintain our roads however it quickly became a catch all and is now part of the states general fund. I see this as a problem throughout the country but especially in Ca where the elected, missuse the peoples Money.
If you think you are not paying enough taxes, when you fill out your tax returns this year, please add what you would like to pay in additional taxes.
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