How do Modesto roads compare to similar cities around nation? Not well, says survey

A crew resurfaces Standiford Avenue in Modesto, Ca., on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018.
A crew resurfaces Standiford Avenue in Modesto, Ca., on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. aalfaro@modbee.com

Modesto is 20th on a list of the nation’s worst road conditions for midsized cities, according to a new survey.

The ranking in TRIP’s “Bumpy Road Ahead” report is based on 37 percent of Modesto streets rated in “poor” shape in 2016. Another 30 percent were “mediocre,” with 14 percent “fair” and only 19 percent in “good” condition.

TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, estimates the average Modesto driver spends $716 a year more than he or she should on vehicle maintenance and repair because of bad roads. The national average is $599.

The report does not factor in anticipated spikes in street improvements from Measure L, a transportation tax approved throughout Stanislaus County two years ago. The tax has enabled Modesto leaders to budget $12 million for recent and near-future road improvements, although disputes have arisen regarding spending oversight by a citizens commission.

The Modesto City Council in early September appointed some council members to oversee the oversight commission, rather than disband it because of complaints that the group had been stalling progress on road projects.

Modesto leaders have said Measure L money will allow repaving of virtually all city streets multiple times in the tax’s 25-year life.

Another new revenue stream — last year’s statewide gas tax increase, known as Senate Bill 1 — would bring millions more dollars each year to fix Modesto streets. But voters across California will decide whether to repeal the tax increase under Proposition 6 on the Nov. 6 ballot.

The timing of TRIP’s “Bumpy Road Ahead,” just before the fall election, seems fishy, some critics say.

“Don’t be fooled by a PR stunt by politicians in the middle of the Yes On 6 - Gas Tax Repeal campaign,” said Carl DeMaio, chairman of that campaign, in a statement.

Not true, says TRIP, a Washington, D.C., research group funded by the construction industry, labor unions, insurance companies and equipment manufacturers.

“While we’re aware of the important conversations about transportation happening in California right now, the release of our national report was not timed to influence California voters,” said Carolyn Bonifas Kelly, TRIP’s associate communication director. “As a nonprofit research group, TRIP does not take a position on any legislation or ballot questions.”

To the north, Stockton fared badly in the recent survey, placing ninth worst among the nation’s midsized cities with population from 200,000 to 500,000. Fully 43 percent of Stockton streets are in poor shape, costing the average Stockton driver an extra $743 yearly, the study says.

Nine midsized California cities are among the nation’s 20 worst, the report says; Antioch was at rock bottom, with 57 percent of streets rated “poor.”

Among large cities, with at least 500,000 population, San Francisco-Oakland was worst with 71 percent of streets rated “poor” followed by San Jose (64 percent, second-worst), Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (57 percent, third-worst), Sacramento (41 percent, 12th-worst) and Fresno (40 percent, 16th-worst).

“One third of the nation’s major urban roads are rated in poor condition, providing drivers with a rough ride,” the study says.

A U.S. Department of Transportation report suggested increasing the nation’s $41 billion annual investment in maintaining roads by 33 percent to $61 billion in order to catch up on a $420 billion backlog.

While the United States’ population has increased 15 percent since 2000, vehicle travel has gone up 16 percent, and the use of large commercial trucks has ballooned 29 percent, TRIP says.

In its first year, Measure L brought $41.5 million, or $3.5 million more than predicted, to Stanislaus County and its nine cities. Modesto, the largest, has received more than $10 million. The half-percent increase in sales tax costs shoppers an extra 5 cents for something priced at $10, 50 cents for a $100 item and so on.

SB1 raised the gas tax across California by 12 cents a gallon and the diesel tax by 20 cents a gallon, and increased vehicle fees. Proceeds have been pledged in this area to help construct a Highway 132 bypass west of Modesto; to help rebuild Turlock’s Fulkerth Road interchange with Highway 99; to extend ACE train service from Lathrop to Ripon, Modesto, Ceres, Turlock and Merced; and to build a Campus Parkway from UC Merced to Highway 99.

Garth Stapley: 209-578-2390

Mid-Sized Urban Areas 200k-500k

CityStatePoor Share
Round Lake/McHenry/GrayslakeWisc./Ill.44%


Santa RosaCalif.


Green BayWisc.








Santa ClaritaCalif.










Thousand OaksCalif.




Little RockArk.




Poor share is the percentage of poor roads, of which rankings are based on.