Photo courtesy TRIP
Photo courtesy TRIP

Rural roads need major updating to continue supporting activities that provide the rest of us with energy, food, and fiber. Crashes and fatalities are two-and-a-half times higher in rural areas, where populations are aging and increasingly diverse, than elsewhere in the nation; 10% of bridges are structurally deficient; and more than one-third of roads are in poor or mediocre condition.

That's the bottom line of Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland, a report from The Road Improvement Program (TRIP) in Washington, D.C., a national non-profit transportation research group.

Slightly less than half -- 48% -- of rural roads are in good condition, 16% are in fair condition, 21% are in mediocre condition, and 15% are in poor condition. Deaths increased in 2015 after decreasing every year between 2012 and 2014. In 2015, non-interstate rural roads had a fatality rate of 2.18 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT) compared to 0.83 deaths per 100 million VMT for all other roads.

The Road Improvement Program

“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 Kathleen Bower, AAA senior vice president of public affairs and international relations. “By investing in improvements for today and tomorrow, we can deliver safer experiences for motorists and save tens of thousands of lives.”

Photo courtesy TRIP
Photo courtesy TRIP

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, connects manufacturers to their customers, and supports tourism industry.

To address these challenges, Congress must provide a long-term, dedicated, user-based revenue stream capable of fully funding the federal surface transportation program.

“Farmers and ranchers depend on rural roads, highways and bridges to move their products to market,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “Transportation delays and costs take a bite out of our profitability and competitiveness and impact the quality of rural life. Securing the appropriate resources at the local, state and federal levels will allow for the improvements needed to provide a rural transportation system that will keep goods moving and foster economic growth.”

“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."