15 More Bad Roads

Which states and roads do truck drivers, traffic reporters, and other experts complain about? Here are four roads that are dreaded, dreadful, and deadly.

By Michelle Crouch

1. Interstate 5, California “You’ve got a lot of cross-country drivers who don’t know where they’re going mixing in with truck drivers and commuters who are in a hurry. It literally took my friends 13 hours to make the five-hour drive from Vegas on this road.” —Ginger Chan, a traffic reporter at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles

2. The 101 (Ventura Freeway) to 405 interchange, California “You’ll sit in traffic no matter what time you hit it. It was literally under construction for years, and now they just started some kind of new construction project.” —Ginger Chan

3. Sunset Boulevard (between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills) “One of the worst. You have a ton of tourists because it has all these great shops, restaurants, clubs, and bars, but you also have commuters who are in a hurry trying to get from downtown into Beverly Hills.” —Ginger Chan

4. The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway “It’s a 24-mile toll bridge across Lake Ponchartrain to Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans. The fog will move in, and it’s so thick you can’t see the end of your car. It creates a very dangerous and unnerving situation. Sometimes we literally have to escort vehicles across.” —Lt. Doug Cain, spokesman for the Louisiana State Police

5. Highway 31 from Lafayette to St. Martinville, Louisiana “It’s the bumpiest two-lane road I’ve ever been on. It’s frightening because you don’t know when you’re going to come up on a big pothole. And the road is so narrow you can’t swerve to avoid them. I have to get my alignment redone every time I drive down there.” —Jennifer Marusak, communications director for Driving Louisiana Forward, a campaign committed to improving Louisiana’s highway infrastructure

“I couldn’t tell you which roads are really bad because right now 99 percent of the roads here are very bad. My potbelly literally jiggles when I drive.” —John Bray, operations manager for MetroScan traffic, which does traffic for 18 radio and three TV stations in New Orleans

“It’s a pitiful ongoing joke among our citizens that we know exactly when we cross the line into another state. It goes from bumpity, bumpity bump to smooth sailing, whether you’re driving into Texas, Arkansas, or Mississippi.” —Jennifer Marusak

6. Pennsylvania roads in general. “The turnpike is narrow and it’s very curvy and there are potholes and wild animals everywhere. Really. We have bear and deer that run out on the road. A few months back, a 600-pound bear got hit on 79 in Cranberry. Luckily, it was a big truck.” —Bonny Diver, traffic reporter for four Pittsburgh radio stations [/step-item]

“There’s a reason you don’t see Miatas or Mustangs or Corvettes in Pennsylvania. You just can’t drive fast here. Our roads are too narrow, too curvy, too bumpy. You’d hit all these bumps and potholes and ruin your car.” —Bonny Diver

“In most places the roads are on a grid or in some kind of blocks. Not here. When we first moved to Pittsburgh, I had the map on my lap, but we still ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street, and a police officer stopped us. I said, ‘I’m trying to get to The Carlton. Can you help us?’ And the officer said, ‘No, I’m sorry, it’s too complicated. Just turn around.’” —Bonny Diver

“The roads are so narrow that people are always running into the medians here and bouncing off.” —Bonny Diver

7. Tulsa’s Inner Dispersal Loop, Oklahoma “The IDL has been a nightmare for years. It’s where a bunch of highways come together and as the name suggests, you can head in multiple directions. It has long been one of the most torn up and shut down parts of roadway in Oklahoma. Most of it is overpass and bridges, and they’ll really chew you up. You feel like your car is going to fall apart.” —Jeff Brucculeri, traffic reporter, Tulsa (The state is using $75 million in stimulus money to overhaul the IDL, according to the transportation department. More than 40 bridges are being replaced. It’s the largest project in state history.)

8. Broken Arrow Expressway (Highway 51)/I-44 interchange, Oklahoma “Many of the acceleration lanes for the ramps here are very short, plus the ramps are so darn close together. So you have people who are hesitant to get on getting caught up in traffic that’s trying to get off. It’s just a mess. There are always accidents there. You’ve got people who get to the end of the ramp, and they’re stopping. Unless you can go from 0 to 60 in 60 seconds, you should never get on the highway from a dead stop. Then you’ve got the people behind you on the ramp slamming into you.” —Jeff Brucculeri

9. The High Rise on Interstate 10 in Louisiana “One of our most dangerous roads goes over an industrial canal in New Orleans. Ships pass underneath, so it has a very steep grade. So you’re going along flat, flat, flat at 65, and all of a sudden you’re going almost straight uphill. If your car has been chugging along barely making it, that’s where it’s going to break down. Plus an on-ramp comes in right at the top of the high rise. People have to get over all of a sudden to make room for those cars and—crash—you’ve got an accident.” —Ray Romero, a New Orleans traffic reporter

10. Wilshire Boulevard in west Los Angeles “I really hate it. It’s a wide street in both directions, but everyone takes it to get to the freeway, and the freeway is always backed up, so it backs up. It literally can take you an hour to go ten miles. And if there’s construction, forget it. As I’ve said on the air many times, I’ll go through bad neighborhoods to avoid this street.” —Ginger Chan

11. California highways “There is no smooth spot on California roads. Things fall out of cabinets in my truck—movies, my laptop—every time I drive through. Plus it’s like the autobahn out there. You’ve got two Pintos and a Bentley going 100 miles an hour. But the cop sitting in the middle of the highway will chase down an out-of-state truck for doing 62. [The state’s truck speed limit is 55.]” —Trucker Matt Boose, Kansas City

12. Route 81, Pennsylvania “It’s the longest north-south interstate in Pennsylvania and built of concrete slabs, which are no longer used. Sand and grit get into the joints between the blocks, and that makes the slab start to rock. It produces a wave action so you get this kaboom-kaboom effect when you drive over it. It feels like you’re on a roller coaster. It’s such a problem that the whole road is being replaced.” —National transportation expert David Hartgen, emeritus professor of transportation studies at University of North Carolina-Charlotte and author of the Reason Foundation’s annual study on roads

“Almost 40 percent of the roads in Pennsylvania are narrow, the highest percentage (along with West Virginia) of any state in the country. Plus they’ve got a lot of curvy, mountainous roads. If you just drift a little bit, you’re off the road.” —David Hartgen

13. Emigrant Hill on I-84 in Oregon (“Cabbage Hill”) Though it’s the main route west to get to Portland, this area through the mountains about 30 miles west of La Grande has a long, steep mountain grade and hairpin curves that will put your brakes to the test. Add in frequent snow, fog, and black ice, and it becomes a trucker’s nightmare. “You’ve got to do 25 or 30 miles an hour the whole way because your brakes can overheat real easily, and if they overheat, you lose them,” says trucker Kevin Johnson of Rushville, Illinois. “Everywhere you look, there are runaway truck ramps. They’ll tear up your truck—if you survive.” According to trucker lore, the section got its name after a truck hauling cabbages went off the mountain. The next spring, cabbage plants sprang up all over the steep terrain beside the highway.

14. I-285 in Atlanta (“Watermelon 500”) “Interstate 285 is a major loop around Atlanta. It’s four or five lanes of traffic in each direction, with traffic 24 hours a day. People drive like they’re on the motor speedway. There’s always so much congestion, and people are constantly cutting in and out. The worst part is where 85 and a bunch of local highways come in: Spaghetti Junction. There are multiple ramps at different levels, and so many people getting on and off, it’s just very confusing. You have one little accident and it shuts everything down.” —Trucker Clarence Jenkins, of Charleston, West Virginia

“We call it the Watermelon 500 because people drive like lunatics on it,” says Kevin Johnson. “It’s like a giant NASCAR race going around Atlanta.”

15. Monteagle Mountain on I-24 in Tennessee This section of road just north of the Georgia-Alabama border has been so bad for so long that Johnny Cash recorded a song about it. “Your life is in your hands when you start down that long, steep grade,” the lyrics go. Narrow, slick, and curvy, the road is well known for the thick, blinding fog that slips in every morning. “It’s the only place I’ve ever seen runaway truck ramps used,” says trucker Kevin Johnson, 41, of Rushville, Illinois. “You can’t see anything in front of you. And if you come up on a curve too fast, you just roll right over. It’s incredibly nerve-wracking.”