Eds: This report contains data for all 50 states for the percentage of rural roads in poor condition, the percent of deficient rural bridges, rural traffic fatality rates and the number of rural traffic fatalities. Click here for infographics.
Washington, D.C. – America’s rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization to support economic growth in the nation’s Heartland, which is a critical source of energy, food and fiber. Rural America is home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. This is according to a new report released today by TRIP. The report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, evaluates the safety and condition of the nation’s rural roads and bridges and finds that the nation’s rural transportation system is in need of improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity. TRIP is a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The chart below shows the states with the highest rate of rural pavements in poor condition, states with the highest share of structurally deficient rural bridges and those with the highest fatality rates on non-Interstate, rural roads.
The report finds that rural roads and bridges in Maine have significant deficiencies. Nineteen percent of Maine’s rural roads are rated in poor condition – the 15th highest rate in the nation – and 20 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Fifteen percent of Maine’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the 10th highest rate in the nation. The rate of traffic fatalities on Maine’s non-Interstate, rural roads – 1.51 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel – is more than triple the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.
“Rural roads are far too often overlooked. With fatality rates rising, repairing and maintaining the nation’s roads must be a top priority for legislators,” said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs AAA Northern New England. “By investing in improvements for today and tomorrow, we can deliver safer experiences for motorists and save tens of thousands of lives.”
“Crumbling bridges, poorly maintained roads and congested highways discourage travel, threatening the entire U.S. economy,” said Erik Hansen, vice president of government relations for the U.S. Travel Association. “Lawmakers have signaled their interest in finding solutions for America’s surface transportation, as evidenced in passage of the FAST Act and the formation of the NACTTI advisory board. However, far more is needed–and fast–to finish the job.”
The quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas, and the health of the nation’s rural economy, is highly reliant on the quality of the nation’s transportation system, particularly its roads, highways and bridges. America’s rural transportation system provides the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market while supporting the tourism industry and enabling the production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts.
“Smith’s Farm Inc in Maine is the largest commercial producer of broccoli east of the Mississippi,” said Emily Smith, president of Smith’s Farm Inc. “At the height of the summer harvest, up to 120 tractor trailer loads a week are leaving Aroostook County on Interstate 95. The fresh vegetables are coming from 5,000 acres in 10 townships to a centralized cooling and packing facility. During the growing season large farm equipment and trucks with significant load are navigating rural roads and bridges to grow and harvest a perishable commodity. Time, speed, and safety are vital factors to the success of our agricultural business. Our bottom line is affected by the rural roads that connect the fields, the farms, and the cooler to the ultimate ‘stag brand’ broccoli consumers buy at supermarkets up and down the east coast.”
The TRIP report finds that the U.S. needs to implement transportation improvements that will improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with safe and efficient access to support quality of life and enhance economic productivity. The nation’s ability to address its rural transportation challenges will be greatly enhanced if Congress is able to provide a long-term, dedicated, user-based revenue stream capable of fully funding the federal surface transportation program.
“We applaud the president, the new administration, and members of Congress for leading the conversation on an issue of critical importance to our 21st century economy: rebuilding America’s infrastructure,” said U.S. Chamber’s Executive Director for Transportation Infrastructure Ed Mortimer. “The American business community looks forward to developing and implementing a long-term plan that will bring our nation’s rural and urban infrastructure up to speed and spur economic growth. Now is the time to take action and to get the job done.”
“The safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the nation’s economy ride on our rural transportation system. The nation’s rural roads and bridges provide crucial links from farm to market, move manufactured and energy products, and provide access to countless tourism, social and recreational destinations,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “Fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of revenue that supports the transportation investment needed will be crucial to the modernization of our rural transportation system.”