This week, TRIP, a national transportation research group, released a new report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland. With the nation’s roads as a whole receiving a “D” grade in ASCE’s 2017 Infrastructure Report Card, the condition of rural roads is a major contributing factor to the low grade.
TRIP’s new report outlines the worsening deterioration of roads and bridges in rural areas and the impacts failing infrastructure has on rural America’s economy, safety, and ability to connect to the rest of the world. These poor conditions have a serious effect, as the report found that traffic crashes and fatalities were two-and-a-half times more likely to occur on rural non-Interstate roads than all other roads. These increased fatalities were the result of several factors including a lack of desirable roadway safety features, longer emergency response times, and the higher speeds traveled on rural roads compared to urban roads. The quality of rural roads is often overlooked, but the safety of rural communities cannot be ignored.
Rural America is the backbone of our economy. The deteriorating state of rural roads and bridges greatly impacts rural communities’ ability to move their products to market. Transportation delays and added costs hurt farmers and ranchers’ ability to turn a profit and limit the competitiveness of their businesses. The health of the nation’s economy depends on us investing in rural transportation infrastructure.
Current rural transportation infrastructure fails to provide many communities with needed levels of connectivity. A rural transportation system that values connectedness through increased funding to rural highways would help residents connect to jobs and provide better routes for goods to get to market.
TRIP recommends several ways America can improve rural communities’ transportation infrastructure system, including:
- Fixing the federal Highway Trust Fund with a long-term, sustainable source of revenue that supports the transportation investment needed
- Modernizing major two-lane roads and highways so they can accommodate increased personal and commercial travel.
- Adequately funding needed rural roadway safety improvements and providing enhanced enforcement, education and improved emergency response to reduce the rate of rural traffic fatalities.
- Adequately funding local and state transportation programs to preserve rural roads, highways and bridges, which are needed to support the rural economy.
- Increasing connectivity to smaller communities by widening and extending rural highways that would facilitate access to jobs, education and healthcare, while improving access for agriculture, energy, manufacturing, forestry, tourism and other critical segments of the rural economy.
Rural highways play a vital role for Americans and in the larger freight network. That’s why it’s time to increase investment into our nation’s roads and bridges by fixing the Highway Trust Fund.