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Los Angeles is #1: Worst Urban Roads

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Photo by Jay Dugger via Flickr

Not a surprise, right? Not only do we have some of the worst freeway intersections, but we have the the highest percentage of urban pavement in poor condition according to a report released Tuesday by TRIP, a national transportation research group.

Their report, “Keep Both Hands on the Wheel: Metro Areas With the Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother,” found that 65% of Los Angeles streets are in poor condition with $778 as the average annual cost in additional vehicle maintenance because of it. Not to fear, though, San Francisco ranks second in the nation with Honolulu trailing behind at third. In fact, eight of the top twenty listed are in California with the other six being San Jose (#4), San Diego (#5), Sacramento (#8), Riverside-San Bernadino County (#16), Oxnard-Ventura (#17), and Fresno (#19). New York City ranked seventh and Washington D.C., twentieth.

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But let's put Los Angeles into perspective because it's a massively large city, physically. Bill Robertson is the head of the city's Bureau of Street Surfaces Services (BOSS) and in a speech to the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council in Februrary of 2007, he gave a little history.

Pre-1945, Los Angeles had 2500 miles of streets with the city maintaining 50 miles of street a year. Come post World War II and the San Fernando Valley growth boom in the 50s and 60s, the system grew to 6,500 miles of streets. Until the mid 1980s, the city was still resurfacing only 50 miles a year. Talk about getting yourself behind schedule. A residential street is supposed to last 30 years, a select system street for 20 years and a street that has heavy traffic, and especially busses running up and down it, lasts only 12 years.

"We've got streets in the City of Los Angeles that have never been paved. 70-year-old streets, never paved" he exclaimed. As of last year, the backlog was 63 years. "Now, that's the good news," Robertson joked as he went on to talk about the condition of sidewalks.

As the discussion reared back towards streets, he said that as of that moment, 1000 miles of streets in the city were failed and 4100 miles were in need of repair. Last year, the city was averaging 200 miles of resurfaced streets per year with a $74 million budget. To fix the system and catch up, funding at $150 million a year for 10 years would fix the system. Or you could fire every police officer for one year and that's not going to ever happen. Robertson also mentioned that his department pays out $6.7 million annually in litigation against the city by residents and others. More than half of that goes to sidewalk trip-and-fall lawsuits with the second item being tree limbs.

Nationally, a U.S. Department of Transportation report said that, by 2026, the nation would fall $119 billion short of the cost of maintaining current urban pavement conditions and $270 billion short of making significant repairs according to a FOX 11 News report. The TV station has a nice city breakdown of percentages failed and costs of all the California cities listed in TRIP's report on their website.