Many Americans can't stand driving on US roads

Why U.S. roads and highways are so bad

Americans might love the open roads but many apparently don't like ... actual roads.

Many polls, such as one from Monmouth University in 2018, indicate that more than 30% of those surveyed say there are roads in their neighborhoods in need of urgent repair.

In recent years, politicians on both left and right have made improving America's "crumbling" infrastructure key issues in campaigns.

However, those who study infrastructure point out that that the commonly invoked image of crumbling U.S. infrastructure is actually quite nuanced.

The U.S. road system is funded, operated and maintained by a complex quilt of government agencies at the municipal, state and federal levels, and how well a road is maintained can depend heavily on who is responsible for keeping it up.

The quality of two different roads, even two connected roads, can vary tremendously depending on which government entity is funding what. Municipal roads, particularly those in poorer areas, are typically the ones furthest behind in repairs.

But a lack of funding seems to be a persistent challenge at all levels of government.

The federal government spent nearly $50 billion in 2019 on roads through the Highway Trust Fund. The fund is supposed to be financed solely through federal taxes on fuel — just over 18 cents per gallon for gasoline and 22 cents per gallon on diesel. But those haven't been raised since 1993, and inflation has been stripping away the purchasing power of the tax. More fuel-efficient vehicles are also hurting federal revenue for roads — electric cars, for example, don't pay gas taxes at all.

Some who follow infrastructure policy suggest raising the gas tax, others are proposing assessing fees based on the usage of roads, rather than on the purchase of fuel.

Some states facing repair and maintenance backlogs have turned to their own solutions, such as assessing new taxes or setting up toll roads.