Where Does Oklahoma’s Road Quality Rank Nationally?
When it comes to roads and highways across the state, Oklahoma drivers seem to never run out of things to complain about.
"Why is there so much construction?"
"Why are there so many patches?"
"They just redid this road a few years ago?"
My personal common complaint is traffic flow. I'll never understand how three lanes of traffic can manage to match speeds 15 MPH slower than the posted limit... but I usually only notice it when I'm in a hurry. That's life.
In my part of the state (SWOK-Lawton) people constantly complain about our horrific city street and I-44. While city street will be an ongoing municipal issue, state crews just wrapped up a project to smooth out the bouncy nature of the turnpike.
For a solid year, it was nothing but awful driving for miles on end, but the end result has mostly silenced drivers on the matter, and that's sort of been the trend in Oklahoma for the last twenty-ish years.
I-40 was the worst road in the state for a long time. In Eastern Oklahoma it was noisy and full of poorly-laid patches. In Western Oklahoma it was so bouncy it would literally beat cars to death. And if you remember the old I-40 in OKC, it was a warzone... but you'd barely notice it anymore.
As bad as we think our roads are in the Sooner State, Oklahoma ranks #4 on the national list of roads and bridges.
How is that possible?
In May of 2002, a towboat captain hauling barges down the Robert S Kerr Reservoir lost control of his load at which point he collided with the I-40 bridge spanning the waterway. As a result, the bridge collapsed and made headlines across the country.
Several vehicles and three semi-trucks plunged into the river. 14 people died, 11 were injured, but the incident shed light on Oklahoma's horrid infrastructure conditions. We were nearly dead last in national rankings back in 2004.
After 20 years of statewide bridge infrastructure remediation, and an emphasis on highways, we now have the fourth-best bridges and roads in the nation.
That doesn't mean they're good.
Like most rankings, ranking so high doesn't necessarily mean our roads are fantastic. While they're much better than they've ever been, there are problem areas.
...looking at your I-35 between OKC & Texas...
If anything, our #4 rank points out just how bad the roads are around other parts of the country.
For the record, Wyoming ranked #1 in roads this time around, which is weird because it boasts the highest number of dirt and gravel public roads in the nation. It's also the least populated state in the nation and pretty far off the beaten path of national travel in every metric they measure.
What about Texas?
It never fails to come up, the comparison with Oklahoma's #1 rival. Sure, they have miles and miles of decently smooth highways crisscrossing the state, but that doesn't mean they have good roads.
Texas manages this insurmountable task of good roads with a one-two punch of factors. They have 30+million people paying taxes into one of the top-10 largest economies in the world, and they've mastered the art of building cheap roads.
Honestly, you need earplugs to drive most of the non-interstate highways in the state. Gravel and tar make for extremely loud driving conditions. As such, Texas ranked #30 in roads thanks to the major metropolitan vehicular minefields of Dallas, Houston, and Austin. naa-na-naa-na-naa.