Sept. 5, 2009 -- A new report on U.S. highways, released just as families across the country hit the road for Labor Day weekend, found that the nation's highways and bridges are in rough shape, with New Jersey having the worst roads.
For motorists living in a state with poor roads that means more travel delays, higher driving costs and a greater risk of being injured.
"It can amount to several hundreds of dollars a year in additional costs when you're driving on bad roads," said David Goldberg, a spokesperson for Transportation for America, the Washington, D.C., group that focuses on state-by-state transportation statistics.
"There is heightened elements of danger in places where you might encounter a place in the road that can cause an accident," said Goldberg.
Transportation for America analyzed data compiled by the Federal Highway Administration to compare how roads in each state stack up for quality.
The poorest road conditions "happen to be in our biggest metro areas, and the highest-traveled ones are probably the ones that are the farthest behind in their maintenance," said Goldberg.
An average of 5.8 percent of the nation's roads are in poor condition, the group found.
"If you look at why roads deteriorate it's heavy travel, volume of use, and also a variety of weather conditions," said Frank Moretti, who studies road conditions as Director of Policy and Research for the Washington, D. C. based non-profit, The Road Information Program. Here's a look at states with the worst conditions in the nation.
"In New Jersey we are the most congested state in the nation and have some of the busiest roads," said David Weinstein, a spokesperson for the Mid-Atlantic AAA.
New Jersey also has the worst roads in the nation, with 28.2 percent of the state's roads categorized as being in poor condition. Heavy traffic and harsh winters have damaged many of New Jersey's local roads. The state's toll roads ranked better than the streets that connect local communities.
"It is a very heavily urbanized state, it has some of the oldest infrastructure in the country, it has harsh winters, it is a key trucking corridor, so it gets a lot of punishment from those heavy trucks," said Goldberg.
"You take it day by day in New Jersey," said Weinstein, who drives throughout the state. "You have to get in your car to get to places and try not to think too much about the condition of the road and try to get there safely."
The state is making an effort to increase the quality of conditions for drivers.
Goldberg acknowledged "in recent years New Jersey has in fact shifted a substantial amount of its resources to fixing and improving the roads."
In a statement to ABC News, the New Jersey Department of Transportation said the state has doubled its spending on pavement preservation under Gov. Jon Corzine and "will improve municipal and county roads through a $50 million increase in local aid this year."
Funding from this year's stimulus packages has also been directed to New Jersey roads. But AAA's David Weinstein warns, "I think it's really important to remember that that money is only a one-shot deal, after that money runs out where still left here in New Jersey with the mechanism that we have "
Hawaii follows behind New Jersey with the second-worst roads in the country -- 22.8 percent of the roads in the state are in poor condition.
Like New Jersey, Hawaii also has dense regions where roads are constantly under use.
"The population is concentrated in some fairly crowded urban areas, the roads get punished a lot," said Goldberg.
The Road Information Program released a report on Hawaii's conditions earlier this week. They wrote, "Hawaii's roads and bridges are becoming increasingly deteriorated and congested and the state's rural roads have a high-rate of fatal traffic crashes. In the past decade, the state has used a combination of federal and state funding to improve its surface transportation network, but many sorely needed transportation projects still remain unfunded."
"It's not the wealthiest state in the union and I think, frankly, it probably just has not been a high priority in their budgeting to keep the roads in good condition," said Goldberg.
In California, 17.2 percent of the state's roads are in poor condition, the third-worst conditions in the country. Like New Jersey and Hawaii, California roads are heavily trafficked.
According to Frank Moretti of The Road Information Program, California ranks so highly "because of significant travel on these roads and the state has not been able to invest adequately to maintain them."
Moretti's research also shows Los Angeles drivers pay the most in additonal driving costs for their state's rough roads: "Motorists in Los Angeles are paying the greatest additional costs because of the poor pavement," which can add up to between $600 and $700 a year.
Kansas and Michigan round out the top five states with the worst roads.
In Kansas, 16.6 percent of the state's roads are ranked as poor. The state has received $348 million in Recovery Act funds for highway and bridge projects.
A statement released today by the Kansas Department of Transportation acknowledged it will take time for the stimulus money to kick in and make a difference in the state's roads.
The statement said: "As the Labor Day observance begins, the hundreds of state highway construction jobs funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act are cause for celebration."
Some 13.6 percent of Michigan's roads are ranked as poor. Cold winters with freezing and icy conditions contributed to giving Michigan a rating more than double the national average.
The Road Information Program noted in their study of the state's roadways that as Michigan suffered from a significant economic downturn, less money was available from state and local budgets for maintenance.
On the other side of the rankings, Oregon had the lowest percentage of poor roads, with only 0.8 percent in rough shape, followed by Massachusetts with just 1 percent.