News Story

Michigan’s Roads Appear Middling-To-Poor, Not The Nation’s Worst

It depends on who you ask

How bad are Michigan’s roads?

The media has widely reported a questionable survey that had Michigan roads as the worst in the country.

As Michigan Radio reported, “A recent study, that no Michigander needed, confirmed that we have the worst roads in the country.”

House Democratic Leader Christine Greig echoed the claim Michigan's roads were the worst in the country in an MLive story.

But did a report released in January really confirm that this state’s roads are the worst?

A software company called Lvl5 attracted a lot of Michigan media attention in January by claiming that the state had the worst roads in the country. The firm is marketing a phone-based app to local governments which, it says, will use driver-generated maps of roads to give high-quality maps that can be used to pinpoint spots needing repair.

But there are also reports from other sources that the condition of Michigan roads is not much worse, and in some cases is a little better than they were at the start of the decade.

The Michigan Transportation Asset Management Council, an official organization, tracks the conditions of roads eligible for federal aid. It found that the percentage of those roads in poor condition increased from 35.14% in 2010-11 to 40.51% in 2017-18, the most recent data available. But over that same period, the percentage of roads in good condition also increased, going from 18.28% to 21.08%.

A new report from another organization found that while Michigan’s roads are not great, they’re not the worst in the country.

The Reason Foundation’s 24th Annual Highway Report ranked the cost-effectiveness and overall performance of U.S. highways. It used 13 categories, comprised of 2016 data reported by each state, including pavement condition, traffic fatalities, and cost-per-mile. Bridge condition and congestion information data from 2017 was also analyzed.

The report did not include data on local or county roadways.

Michigan, which has the 30th-largest highway system in the nation, ranked 30th out of all 50 states.

On the plus side, the state’s ranking increased by two places since last year, and it also had the seventh-lowest rate for fatalities on rural highways.

Here’s how Reason ranked Michigan’s roads with other states on a best-to-worst scale:

Rural arterial pavement condition: 19th in the U.S.

Urban arterial pavement condition: 34th in the U.S.

Rural interstate pavement condition: 34th in the U.S.

Urban interstate pavement condition: 42nd in the U.S.

“To improve in the rankings, Michigan needs to improve its urban Interstate pavement condition and urban arterial pavement condition,” said Baruch Feigenbaum, the report’s lead author and the foundation’s assistant director of transportation. “Michigan is in the bottom 10 for its urban Interstate pavement condition and urban arterial pavement condition.”

Overall, Reason found Michigan’s highways to be better than those of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Indiana, but worse than those of Illinois and Ohio, Feigenbaum added.

North Dakota’s roadways came out on top for cost-effectiveness and overall performance, while New Jersey filled the last-place position.