Rhode Island has worst roads in nation, new survey finds

But state transportation official claims data collected is out of date

By: - March 28, 2023 2:00 am

Hillside Avenue in Pawtucket shows its sorry condition. Poor-quality roads cost Rhode Island motorists $823 per year in lost time and repairs, a new report finds.(Photo by Nancy Lavin)

Have you ever felt no state has worse roads than Rhode Island? For the fourth consecutive year, those thoughts are justified, according to a new national report.

The survey conducted by QuoteWizard, the insurance division of the financial website LendingTree, lists Rhode Island as having the “worst infrastructure in the nation.” The Ocean State has ranked as the state with the worst roads every year QuoteWizard has done this study since 2019.

“I can’t think of a time where Rhode Island hasn’t been number one,” said Nick VinZant, the author of the report.

According to the report based on data from the federal government’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, 48% of the state’s roads and 19% of bridges are currently in “poor condition.” West Virginia has the second worst roads, with 31% deemed to be in poor condition. Massachusetts, which came in third, is at 28%.

Driving on poor-quality roads costs the average Rhode Island motorist $823 per year in lost time and repairs, according to the study.

Kevin Dietz, the store manager at BTS Tire & Service in Pawtucket, noted that a lot of the work at his shop is done on repairing or replacing ball joints, rods, and tires caused by driving through potholes.

“All vehicles that have to be on the road have to be roadworthy, but not all roads have to be vehicle-worthy,” he said with a laugh.

Charles St. Martin, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation said the report used data that is three to four years old and out of date.

“It does not accurately reflect the improvements RIDOT has made in the last three to four years in its roads and bridges,” St. Martin said. “We have been making every effort to hold the companies that issue these erroneous reports accountable, and we will be doing so with this company.”

St. Martin said that only around 15% of the state’s bridges are deficient, number expected to go down to 10% within the next three years, he said.

The report takes into account all roads in Rhode Island when ranking road conditions. RIDOT is responsible for only about 20% of all the roads in the state. 

All vehicles that have to be on the road have to be roadworthy, but not all roads have to be vehicle-worthy.

– Kevin Dietz,store manager at BTS Tire & Service in Pawtucket

A distinction other reports confirm

The QuoteWizard ranking is not the only one to give Rhode Island this distinction. 

A report released earlier in the year by Construction Coverage, a construction and home improvement website based in San Diego, also said that the Ocean State had the worst roads in the country. 

One of the factors for the high ranking is the unpredictability of New England weather, which can lead to constant deterioration.

“The conditions are harsher,” VinZant said, noting that roads tend to be better in states like Arizona. “There, you’re not dealing with freezes and thaws, wet weather, snow, and salt on the road.”

The biggest reason, he said, is due to lack of funding from the state in road renovations. According to the report, Rhode Island invests 2% of its spending on repairs.

St. Martin contends there is no shortfall in road investments. He notes that RIDOT has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in infrastructure and is “making advancements faster than most other states.”

This includes a $20 million proposal to use the Governor’s Municipal Road Fund Program for repairs to city and town-maintained roads, along with plans to invest nearly $500 million — more than $90 million a year — on repaving roads using additional funding provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed by the federal government in 2021.

RIDOT is also undertaking major highway renovations including the ongoing work with the Route 6/10 interchange, new highway connections near the Newport Bridge, and replacing bridges on I-295 near Route 146.

“The improvements are evident to anyone riding on our roads and bridges during the last several years,” St. Martin said.


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Christopher Shea
Christopher Shea

Christopher Shea covers politics, the criminal justice system and transportation for the Rhode Island Current.