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Conditions and Performance

FHWA - 2006 Conditions and Performance Report: Chapter 3 Executive Summary - Systems Conditions: Highways and Bridges
Status of the Nation's Highways, Bridges, and Transit:
2006 Conditions and Performance

Chapter 3: Executive Summary

Systems Conditions: Highways and Bridges

Poor road surfaces impose costs on the traveling public in the form of increased wear and tear on vehicle suspensions and tires, delays associated with vehicles slowing to avoid potholes, and crashes resulting from unexpected changes in surface conditions. While highway agencies generally consider a variety of pavement distresses in assessing their overall condition, surface roughness most directly affects the ride quality experienced by drivers.

In 2004, 44.2 percent of travel on arterials and collectors for which data are available occurred on pavements with "good" ride quality, up from 39.8 percent in 1995. The percentage of VMT on roads with "acceptable" ride quality (a lower standard that includes roads classified as "good") fell from 86.6 percent to 84.9 percent over the same period of time.

Percentage of VMT on Roads with Acceptable Ride Quality.Line chart showing trends for acceptable and good ride quality for selected years. The value for acceptable ride quality starts at 86.6 percent in 1995 and trends flat to gradually lower to reach 84.9 percent in 2004. The value for good ride quality starts at 39.8 percent and trends flat to gradually higher to reach 44.2 percent in 2004.

Pavement ride quality is generally better on higher functional class roads and is better in rural areas than in urban areas. For example, approximately 97.8 percent of rural Interstate VMT in 2004 was on pavements with acceptable ride quality, compared with 72.4 percent for urbanized collectors.

In 2004, 58.3 percent of rural VMT occurred on roads with good ride quality, while 94.5 percent occurred on roads with acceptable ride quality. The comparable percentages for VMT in small urban areas were 41.2 percent good and 84.3 percent acceptable; for VMT in urbanized areas, 36.1 percent was on pavements with good ride quality, while 79.2 percent had acceptable ride quality.

Percentage of VMT on Roads with Acceptable Ride Quality, by Urban Area Size, 2004.Bar chart comparing values for good and acceptable ride quality in three categories. In rural areas, good accounts for 58.3 percent and acceptable accounts for 94.5 percent. In small urban areas, good accounts for 41.2 percent and acceptable accounts for 84.3 percent. In urbanized areas, good accounts for 36.1 percent and acceptable accounts for 79.2 percent.

Most bridges are inspected every 2 years and receive ratings based on the condition of various bridge components. Two terms used to summarize bridge deficiencies are "structurally deficient" and "functionally obsolete." Structural deficiencies are characterized by deteriorated conditions of significant bridge elements and reduced load-carrying capacity. Functional obsolescence is a function of the geometrics of the bridge not meeting current design standards. Neither type of deficiency indicates that a bridge is unsafe. Rural bridges tend to have a higher percentage of structural deficiencies, while urban bridges have a higher incidence of functional obsolescence due to rising traffic volumes. The percentage of bridges classified as deficient fell from 27.5 percent in 2002 to 26.7 percent in 2004. Most of this decline was the result of reductions in the percent of structurally deficient bridges.

Percentage of Rural and Urban Bridge Deficiencies, by Number of Bridges
Year 20022004
Rural BridgesStructurally Deficient15.1%14.4%
Functionally Obsolete11.4%11.0%
Total Deficiencies26.5%25.4%
Urban BridgesStructurally Deficient9.2%8.8%
Functionally Obsolete21.9%21.6%
Total Deficiencies31.2%30.4%
Total BridgesStructurally Deficient13.7%13.1%
Functionally Obsolete13.8%13.6%
Total Deficiencies27.5%26.7%

Page last modified on November 7, 2014.
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