States with the most pothole complaints

Written by:
February 16, 2022
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States with the most pothole complaints

When it comes to the daily reality of driving on the nation’s roadways, statistics are one thing, but actually putting up with the sheer amount of cracks, delaminations, and potholes is something you can only truly measure by feedback from your fellow drivers. A January 2022 summary report from national transportation research nonprofit TRIP found that 40% of U.S. roadways—encompassing highways, arterials, and local roads—are in poor or mediocre condition, and the result of this is an average cost to the single driver of $621 per year for vehicle repair and maintenance. When you consider the total number of drivers in the United States, that few hundred dollars per driver tally up to $141 billion overall.

While this is a staggering figure, it doesn’t really punch its weight in terms of how degraded roadways affect the average person. Funnily enough, you’d have better luck going to social media for such a glimpse at the raw frustration and inconvenience the common pothole can cause. As such, Stacker took a look at data from The Clunker Junker to rank every state according to how many pothole complaints are registered on Twitter per 1,000 km, or 621 miles, of road.

Potholes are not just the curse of states that lay down a lot of salt in winter—which causes breaks or delaminations in the road surface—nor are they merely the bane of the drier regions, where the sun hits the asphalt with relentless, year-round force. They are a ubiquitous occurrence nationwide. Potholes are actually caused, for the most part, by the conflation of water absorption, freeze-thaw cycles, heat, and good old wear and tear, which makes every city, county, and state in America ripe for their development.

Keep reading to see how states stack up according to the complaints of their own drivers.

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#50. Idaho

- Pothole complaints: 0.4 for every 1,000 km of road

When it comes to potholes, Idaho has the advantage of a low population density. With 1.7 million people spread out over nearly 28,000 miles of roadway, it’s been able to maintain a robust maintenance program on a county-by-county basis. The city of Idaho Falls, for example, has a pothole hotline, and recent major road repair projects have targeted potholes on state highways 33 and 45.

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#49. Wyoming

- Pothole complaints: 0.6 for every 1,000 km of road

Despite the occasional social media rant, Wyoming drivers are generally happy with the state of their road system. An April 2021 customer satisfaction survey by the Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) showed that more than two-thirds of residents feel WYDOT is doing a good job handling potholes and other lousy road conditions. Drivers can in large part thank WYDOT’s decision to use 3D scanning on roadways to identify conditions that create potholes before many even occur.

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#47. Montana (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 0.8 for every 1,000 km of road

Not to be confused with the ecological benefits of prairie potholes, road deterioration is only slightly more of an issue in Montana than in some of the other Western states. One reason is that so many local state communities—among them Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, and Butte-Silver Bow—have established pothole reporting programs to get the pesky tire-hitters filled in almost as quickly as they form.

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#47. New Mexico (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 0.8 for every 1,000 km of road

The New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) is among the few road and bridge agencies that must maintain what is largely a rural road network. This fact has made it easier for NMDOT to keep its citizens apprised of road construction projects as well as hazard zones on its roadways. The state’s NMRoads website offers real-time updates on road conditions.

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#46. South Dakota

- Pothole complaints: 1 for every 1,000 km of road

Like New Mexico, South Dakota’s Department of Transportation sustains a website for up-to-date road conditions and construction information. The state also maintains what it calls a “needs book,” where data is broken down for every highway in the state in terms of its condition and maintenance profile.

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#45. Iowa

- Pothole complaints: 1.1 for every 1,000 km of road

Spring is pothole repair season in much of Iowa, and the state has established a fairly robust maintenance program in this regard. Since potholes largely plague asphalt roads—which Iowa has a sizable number of—the Iowa Department of Transportation has begun investing in research on the potential of recycled plastics to prolong the lifespan and overall durability of its asphalt roadways.

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#44. Arkansas

- Pothole complaints: 1.3 for every 1,000 km of road

It’s kind of amazing that Arkansas should have such a relatively low number of complaints given the numbers coming out of neighboring Louisiana and Missouri, but “natural staters” seem capable of keeping their thumbs off the Twitter switch when it comes to complaining about potholes. Perhaps they are letting their fingers do the walking to the state’s 311 pothole reporting service instead.

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#43. Kansas

- Pothole complaints: 1.8 for every 1,000 km of road

This Midwest flyover state has the advantage of a population spread out across it with metropolitan areas of no more than 400,000 denizens each. Like other flyover states, Kansas is also a freight-through state, meaning heavy truck and haul traffic still creates its fair share of potholes.

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#42. North Dakota

- Pothole complaints: 1.9 for every 1,000 km of road

With intense annual freeze-thaw cycles, North Dakota is prime real estate for the development of potholes. Fortunately, many cities and towns have been proactive in addressing the problem. The city of Fargo, North Dakota, has made a public call encouraging pothole reportage, and even invested in new equipment to get those holes filled.

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#41. Delaware

- Pothole complaints: 2 for every 1,000 km of road

While two complaints per 1,000 km of road might not sound like much, when you consider Delaware’s size relative to states further up the list, it’s a significant number. The state is tackling the issue—for example, a $6.5 restoration project is about to get underway to rescue 7 miles of road in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

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#39. Nebraska (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.3 for every 1,000 km of road

Another flyover and freight-haul state, Nebraska is also the site of more than 8,000 oil and gas wells, mostly in the southwest and west portions of the state. Consequently, state roadways deal with an increased amount of heavy truck traffic.

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#39. Oklahoma (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.3 for every 1,000 km of road

Interstate 40 runs through Oklahoma, which has been cited as one of the 10 most hazardous roads in the United States. But it’s not just along this corridor that potholes are a problem. The Oklahoma communities of Yukon and Piedmont have been up in arms about potholes for some time. In one Yukon suburb, an anonymous citizen made clear how he thinks potholes are affecting his community.

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#38. Maine

- Pothole complaints: 2.5 for every 1,000 km of road

Despite its statewide defect law, Maine still contends with its fair share of potholes. The city of Bangor, Maine—home to local writer Stephen King’s most famous house and now writers’ retreat—was recently cited as one of the most pothole-riddled cities in America, despite local officials imploring Mainers to phone in every defect they hit or miss.

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#36. Alaska (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.7 for every 1,000 km of road

One should be forgiving to Alaskans for “pothole” being a relative term. With average winter temps dropping to as much as minus 30 F in some regions and summers rarely cresting 60 F, freeze-thaw cycles in this northern state are brutal. What’s more, the city of Anchorage, Alaska, sits astride a fault line—which resulted in a mighty big “pothole” when a 7.0 magnitude earthquake hit the area in late 2018.

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#36. Minnesota (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.7 for every 1,000 km of road

The Land of 10,000 Lakes is a regular target of this wintertime nuisance, but the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s preventive maintenance program has found success in getting in front of degraded roads before cracks make for asphalt fields of potholes. And MnDOT has help: Minnesota Public Radio has teamed up with SeeClickFix to map out the worst potholes and alert the agency.

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#34. Kentucky (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.8 for every 1,000 km of road

Kentucky’s geographic position makes for tough winters in the northern part of the state and deeply hot summers in the southern areas, which is a recipe for potholes. State maintenance crews have developed a fill ’em and forget ’em strategy by using cold-mix asphalt—asphalt you can mix in an ordinary plastic bucket—to plug the holes.

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#34. Mississippi (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 2.8 for every 1,000 km of road

Folks in Mississippi are generally willing to give it to you straight, and when it comes to potholes they see no reason to avoid their dislike. Residents in the city of Jackson, Mississippi, have their own Twitter feed exclusively dedicated to creating a “profile of the best, biggest, baddest, longest lasting potholes in Jackson.” One pothole, in particular, has been in place so long tomatoes are growing in it.

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#33. Alabama

- Pothole complaints: 3.4 for every 1,000 km of road

The Alliance for Alabama’s Infrastructure operates a Fix Our Roads initiative to encourage investment in the state’s road system. And the Alabama Department of Transportation is presently supporting its Rebuild Alabama Act with a series of road restoration projects it hopes will nip much of the pothole problems the state has in the bud.

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#32. West Virginia

- Pothole complaints: 3.8 for every 1,000 km of road

West Virginia is known for three things: coal, lumber and wood, and primary metals. Each of these industries creates a lot of heavy truck traffic—and you know what that means. A recent report from the Reason Foundation put the state 30th in overall highway infrastructure, a slight improvement over its 2019 ranking, but woefully behind where it was as recently as 2016.

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#30. Colorado (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 4 for every 1,000 km of road

According to insurance marketplace QuoteWizard, Grand Junction, Colorado, is the second-worst city in the union for potholes. Since this city is a major tourist destination, particularly for hikers and naturalists, one may assume a good portion of the complaints are coming from out-of-staters.

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#30. Wisconsin (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 4 for every 1,000 km of road

Another state with multiple and harsh freeze-thaw cycles, Wisconsin also uses more than 525,000 tons of salt each year on icy roadways, which is a major pothole contributor. Several communities, however, have been looking for alternatives to using salt in the hopes that they might see environmental improvements—not to mention fewer potholes.

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#28. Oregon (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 4.6 for every 1,000 km of road

Ah, Portland, Oregon, how its citizens always do what you’d least expect—and that includes its road workers. On Jan. 20, 2022, six city trade unions authorized a strike after contract negotiations with the city stalled. Union workers handle the city’s water, development services, policing, finances, and yes, roadway maintenance. With traffic deaths in the city the highest they’ve been in three decades, the ongoing strike’s impact on pothole filling may only intensify an already dangerous situation. Still, Oregon is about to be flush with $400 million in federal funding, about one-quarter of which is expected to be earmarked expressly for addressing problems like potholes.

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#28. Utah (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 4.6 for every 1,000 km of road

Despite the relative frequency of pothole-related complaints—not to mention the estimated $709 per year hit a given driver will take as a result of their preponderance—the future’s looking brighter for Utah’s roads. The state will receive $2.6 billion over the next five years to address its aging and degraded roads and bridges. And it looks like the Utah Department of Transportation is already casting an eye on some tech-savvy methods for how to spend it—the agency recently partnered with Salt Lake City-based tech firm Blyncsy to apply its artificial intelligence technology to address road hazards.

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#27. South Carolina

- Pothole complaints: 5 for every 1,000 km of road

A September 2021 report from the national transportation research nonprofit TRIP found that 43% of major roads in South Carolina are in either poor or mediocre condition. This concerning statistic gains in context when you consider the fact that 465 million tons of freight pass through the state each year, a figure expected to grow 65% by 2040. Still, since 2018, the South Carolina Department of Transportation has gotten some 4,000 road projects going, so perhaps the pothole pit may soon be shallower than feared.

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#25. Indiana (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 5.1 for every 1,000 km of road

Northern Indiana roads regularly suffer both hard winters and persistent freight traffic between Chicago and Detroit, which combine to make for a perfect environment for potholes. Despite over $1 billion in annual federal funding from the recently expired FAST Act, in addition to one of the highest state-level gas taxes in the country, the state still struggles with road upkeep.

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#25. Washington (tie)

- Pothole complaints: 5.1 for every 1,000 km of road

Despite a sizable investment in surface transportation, Washington state struggles mightily with fractured roads. In fact, the city of Yakima, Washington, was recently found to be the absolutely worst city in America for potholes.

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#24. Vermont

- Pothole complaints: 5.2 for every 1,000 km of road

Vermont is another smaller state geographically with a big pothole problem. According to Consumer Affairs, the state’s overall pavement condition is relatively good, but sometimes statistics can’t account for everything—case in point, a 9-inch deep pothole that wreaked havoc on Route 9 traffic near Wilmington, Vermont.

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#23. Arizona

- Pothole complaints: 5.3 for every 1,000 km of road

You might be surprised that a state like Arizona, commonly associated with intense heat and desert landscapes, would bear the brunt of winter storms and heavy snow, but it does. The northern portion of the state, in particular, sees winter storms on par with those that impact portions of neighboring Utah and Colorado, but southern Arizona is not immune from the same weather events either. Those, coupled with very hot summers, together collude to make a punishing environment for the state’s asphalt roads.

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#22. North Carolina

- Pothole complaints: 5.4 for every 1,000 km of road

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is all too aware of its pothole problem, despite a steep dropoff in official reports. Nonetheless, anticipation is half of preparation, and so NCDOT officials are ready for what it expects to be a spring influx of complaints.

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#21. Texas

- Pothole complaints: 5.8 for every 1,000 km of road

Everything’s bigger in Texas, as the saying goes—and, of course, you know what that means. One pothole in the northern town of Decatur, Texas, was deep enough to hold its own Christmas tree. Another shut down the R.L. Thornton Expressway near Dallas. In general, with the Lone Star State now suffering unprecedented winter storms, it looks like the situation is going to persist. Fortunately, some of the state’s largest cities, such as Houston, are trying to get ahead of the problem.

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#20. Missouri

- Pothole complaints: 5.9 for every 1,000 km of road

According to a White House report, Missouri saw 44 extreme weather events between 2010 and 2020. This, combined with more than 7,500 poor-condition roadways, has produced a preponderance of potholes. A January 2022 TRIP report estimates that poor road conditions cost the average driver $813 each year.

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#19. Virginia

- Pothole complaints: 6 for every 1,000 km of road

Both I-95 and I-64 run through Virginia, and even though it is a primarily rural state, its urban areas, including Washington D.C. and the cities of Norfolk, Richmond, and Virginia Beach, are big tourist draws, in addition to being commuter cities, due to their greater metro areas and proximity—all of which results in an enormous amount of traffic. In many areas, the common commute has become a kind of slalom as drivers try to avoid potholes.

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#18. New Hampshire

- Pothole complaints: 6.5 for every 1,000 km of road

One out of every five roads in New Hampshire is in poor condition. A relatively low state gas tax means less money for maintenance and repair. The state is prone to extreme weather events, which means a lot of snow plow vehicles and salt usage, both of which are pothole contributors.

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#17. Tennessee

- Pothole complaints: 6.9 for every 1,000 km of road

Tennessee is another four-season state, and as such it suffers all the contributing factors to pothole development. One January 2022 report out of Nashville spoke of clouds of road dust and hunks of rock flying up from the roadway into drivers’ windshields as the result of potholes.

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#16. Ohio

- Pothole complaints: 7.3 for every 1,000 km of road

The home of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is most well-known for its corn production. One in 7 Ohioans owes their living to agriculture, and as corn is a staple ingredient in not just food you find in the supermarket, but ethanol and the feed that powers the livestock industry as well, the state is a veritable topography of truck routes. In fact, while overall traffic was down during the pandemic, there was an uptick in the volume of truck traffic.

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#15. Michigan

- Pothole complaints: 7.7 for every 1,000 km of road

In this state, there is a slightly ironic case of drivers perhaps protesting too little. According to research going back to 2004, Michigan is in the top three states with the highest number of pothole complaints. The state is certainly aware of this fact—drivers can apply for reimbursement for repairs needed to their vehicles as a result of a run-in with a pothole.

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#14. Illinois

- Pothole complaints: 7.8 for every 1,000 km of road

Despite having the second-highest gas tax rate in the country, funds for which go toward infrastructure maintenance, Illinois just can’t seem to get a handle on its pothole problem. The director of public works for the city of Rockford, Illinois, told a local news outlet in February 2022, “It’s not uncommon during winter months to see anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 potholes patched on a monthly basis.” And that’s just one city among hundreds.

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#13. Nevada

- Pothole complaints: 7.9 for every 1,000 km of road

Nevada is in line to receive $4 billion in infrastructure funding over the next five years, though exactly how much of that will go to roads is yet uncertain. What is certain is that Nevada drivers are fed up with potholes and the state of roadways that make their fillings rattle.

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#12. Georgia

- Pothole complaints: 9.5 for every 1,000 km of road

Is there such a thing as a car-sized series of potholes? In Atlanta, there is. A driver recently encountered just such a situation on I-85 that resulted in thousands of dollars of damage to his car. In other areas, drivers have reported potholes the size of swimming pools.

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#11. Louisiana

- Pothole complaints: 11 for every 1,000 km of road

Reports flood in from all over Louisiana of potholes doing damage to tires—and often worse than that. In one case, a local resident could sit right along one pothole edge like he was dangling his legs in a pool. The transportation department’s response: Get ready for more of the same.

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#10. Florida

- Pothole complaints: 11.4 for every 1,000 km of road

“I think it is sending a message,” said one Florida resident, but not in reference to a pothole. Rather, he was referring to the banana tree he planted inside one pothole outside his business. Before banana trees, it was cement. And while it was done with all good humor, this gentleman is not alone in having reached a breaking point with the condition of local roads.

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#9. Connecticut

- Pothole complaints: 12 for every 1,000 km of road

There are some runs of potholes on Connecticut roads that are almost unbelievable. And residents have no qualms about pointing them out. One such person took to Twitter to declare, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “My favorite Connecticut pastime is dodging potholes.”

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#8. Pennsylvania

- Pothole complaints: 15.4 for every 1,000 km of road

When you’ve got the second-worst bridge condition situation in the country, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, along with more than 50% of statewide roads not even maintained enough to call “fair,” naturally, a pothole problem is going to follow. One recent example was in Pottsville, Pennsylvania, when a Culligan water delivery truck found itself suspended in a 4-foot by 2-foot hole that required the assistance of a tow truck.

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#7. Maryland

- Pothole complaints: 15.5 for every 1,000 km of road

For a state with a $4.5 billion budget surplus, one might ask, is there any excuse for Marylanders to be dealing with so many potholes? Leaders are talking about tax cuts and more spending on law enforcement—but as for road repair, it looks like the Maryland Department of Transportation’s coffers are already flush. The department is devoting more than half of its $16.4 capital budget to maintaining degraded roads and other infrastructure.

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#6. New Jersey

- Pothole complaints: 16.5 for every 1,000 km of road

It’s like a bad joke: New Jersey has so many potholes … “How many?” … It has so many potholes that getting to the grocery store is “like off-roading.” The average additional cost to drivers in vehicle damage is referred to as a “New Jersey pothole tax,” but leaders are hopeful the new infrastructure bill will send enough road-saving dollars their way to cut that out of drivers’ lives, and hopefully, instead of bright orange traffic cones, help Jersey find a different “state flower.”

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#5. California

- Pothole complaints: 18.4 for every 1,000 km of road

You know people are fed up with potholes when they take matters into their own hands. The mayor of Vallejo, California, had to recently ask residents to stop taking it upon themselves to fix potholes in their community, claiming such “pothole vigilantism” presented a liability problem. Not that folks plan to listen: a GoFundMe called Vallejo PotholeGate has already raised a few thousand bucks to keep the movement going.

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#4. Massachusetts

- Pothole complaints: 18.7 for every 1,000 km of road

Potholes running in the thousands are nothing new to the state of Massachusetts, and drivers report some scary situations, especially in the winter months when slush and rain reduce visibility. Boston is among the cities with the most pothole complaints, with an average of 303 anger-venting tweets per 1,000 km of road.

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#3. New York

- Pothole complaints: 20.5 for every 1,000 km of road

Imagine this: $28 billion per year, that’s how much national transportation nonprofit TRIP estimates New York drivers are losing in extra vehicle operating costs due to deteriorated and congested roads, as well as roads that lack appropriate safety features. This breaks down to more than $3,000 per driver. Acting Gov. Kathy Hochul has “declared war” on potholes, as a means of trying to reach New Yorkers where they are hurting, promising to devote $1 billion to the problem.

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#2. Hawaii

- Pothole complaints: 20.6 for every 1,000 km of road

When it comes to driving, Hawaii is less than paradise. This island state, despite having fewer roadway miles than any other state per capita, nonetheless has a generally underbuilt road system, which has resulted in one-third of roads being in poor condition. One of the top causes for this? Potholes and uneven pavement.

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#1. Rhode Island

- Pothole complaints: 23.4 for every 1,000 km of road

Rhode Island has a lot to recommend it, but when it comes to potholes, the smallest geographic state takes the bituminous taco. One state senator likened driving around potholes to “playing MarioKart with an actual risk of crashing.” And residents feel the same way, with one referring to Rhode Island by the moniker “the Pothole State.” The Providence Journal recently tallied 13,000 potholes on just 17 roads since 2021.

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