Road poll: The good, the bad, the better

Max Kvidera | February 01, 2010

Familiar freeways top the rankings of best, worst and most improved roads in Overdrive survey


One is a molar masher that has raised the ire of users for decades. The other is a ribbon of smooth sailing that has been a favorite in recent years.

In Overdrive’s annual survey of owner-operators’ opinions on the best, worst and most improved U.S. interstate highways, I-10 in Louisiana once again tops the list of worst roads. The highway barely beat out I-95 near New York City.

On the plus side, I-40 in Tennessee repeated for the fourth year in a row as best segment. Most-improved winner was longtime worst winner I-80 in Pennsylvania.

I-40 in Knoxville, Tenn., reopened in 2009 after being closed for more than a year. The state’s section of I-40 was named Best Road.

This past year turned out to be a trying time for state highway departments. Shrinking revenue in the second year of the recession forced states to cut back on budgets for major items such as highway construction and maintenance.

States have responded by postponing new construction and limiting repairs to the most crucial projects.

The lone bright spot has been stimulus funds from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, aimed in part to help rebuild and repair infrastructure.

Already, more than 10,000 transportation and highway projects worth an estimated $21.8 billion have been approved by the Federal Highway Administration. The total amount available to highway projects is capped at $26.6 billion.

A Tennessee titan

At about 455 miles, I-40’s longest stretch within one state is in Tennessee, from the Mississippi River to the Appalachians. Stan Blom, an independent owner-operator from Grimes, Iowa, estimates he’s driven the segment more than 40 times. “It’s a pleasant drive through there. The road surface is good and they use a lot of blacktop,” he says. “They keep it up well.”

I-40’s popularity among truckers isn’t an accident, says Paul Degges, chief engineer of Tennessee’s Department of Transportation. “The number one thing people have told us is maintain our investment in infrastructure. We put a priority on maintaining our bridges and pavement structure, so we have a low overall maintenance cost on those facilities.”

In 2009, the state completed a major reconstruction of two miles of I-40 in Knoxville that shut down the highway for 14 months and rerouted an estimated 120,000 drivers daily.

The Knoxville work was one of 11 projects that were completed on I-40 last year, according to Julie Oaks, Tennessee DOT’s public information officer. Another 11 projects are scheduled for this year on the freeway.

One of 2010’s biggest appropriations for I-40 will be in Nashville, reconstructing an interchange and creating an additional bypass route around the city, Degges says. “It will increase throughput of traffic in the Nashville area,” he says. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.