Nearly 2.5 million Southern Californians will hit the road for the Fourth of July weekend, the Auto Club of Southern California says. That's the highest number since 2002. Relatively low gas prices and a recovering economy are to blame.

But as you get out on the highway, beware.

This week, national transportation organization TRIP unleashed its latest report, The Interstate Highway System Turns 60: Challenges to Its Ability to Continue to Save Lives, Time and Money. It found that California interstate highways are the most congested in the nation. These arteries carry 19,000 vehicles per lane-mile each day, the most in the country. And they're the second-most deteriorated such roadways in America.

Only Hawaii's interstate highways were in worse shape, TRIP found. 

“Eighty-five percent of California’s urban interstates are congested during peak travel times, the highest rate in the country,” a summary of the TRIP report says. “The state also has the highest rate of daily travel per lane-mile on its interstates.”

The solution for our ailing, packed asphalt is simple: money. Will Kempton, executive director of nonprofit group Transportation California, says we're gonna pay either way.

“We simply have not been taking care of our roads,” he says. 

Drivers and businesses lose money when highways are in bad shape, according to Kempton. There's damage to tires and suspension. And there's lost revenue when goods get stuck in traffic.

TRIP has previously argued that the bad roads in Southern California cost local drivers “$1,031 each year in additional vehicle operating costs.”

For federal highways, there's a $189 billion backlog of repair and upkeep, according to the TRIP report. And in California there's a $59 billion, 10-year backlog of road repair and maintenance for state highways, Kempton says.

“The culmination of overdue infrastructure maintenance and lack of capital investment into California’s transportation infrastructure will continue to define our metropolitan cities and paint the state in a negative light among locals,” says Tom Holsman, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of California. “Gridlock is at an epic high and travel in California will only increase in the coming years. It is imperative a viable solution for funding is not only met but sustained.”

Credit: TRIP

Credit: TRIP

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