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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                           Contact: Rocky Moretti (202) 262-0714 (cell) 
JUNE 27, 2017 AT 6:00 A.M. EDT                             Carolyn Bonifas Kelly (703) 801-9212          
Report available at:
tripnet.org                                TRIP office (202) 466-6706

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 38 percent of California’s rural roads are rated in poor condition – the third highest rate in the nation - and 15 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Six percent of California’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient. The rate of traffic fatalities on California’s non-Interstate, rural roads – 3.19 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel – is the second highest in the nation and is nearly five times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

“The results of this study illustrate the consequences of years of backlogged maintenance, and what happens when needs far exceed the resources provided to maintain an aging transportation system,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty. “Luckily, California’s lawmakers acted to provide a badly needed and game changing investment through the Road Repair and Accountability Act (SB 1), which will be an opportunity for California to make significant improvements to our roads, both rural and urban alike.”

"The state invests millions a year to inspect, maintain and preserve roads and bridges, but years of neglect have presented California with a backlog of deferred maintenance in the billions," said Tom Holsman, chief executive officer of the Associated General Contractors of California. "The recent passage of SB 1 provides a significant contribution towards road safety improvements and repairs, but we're talking about an estimated $59 billion maintenance backlog. As daily consumers of our road and highway systems we pay for costly repairs to our vehicles caused by poor road conditions. Instead, we should use those costs towards investing and paying for the maintenance and enhancement of our public facilities and infrastructure." Holsman said.

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.

"This report underlines the pressing need to repair California's rural roads," California Farm Bureau Federation President Paul Wenger said. "The whole nation depends on rural California for food and farm products, but rural infrastructure needs are often overlooked. We must rebuild, repair and enhance the infrastructure our parents and grandparents built, to ensure strong rural communities for everyone who relies on California-grown food and agricultural products."

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.

“The latest TRIP report reinforces what we in rural California have known for a long time,” said Humboldt County Supervisor and California State Association of Counties Second Vice President Virginia Bass. “Between inflation driving up maintenance and repair costs and better fuel economy negatively impacting the available revenue, rural roads are suffering from a severe backlog of deferred maintenance. We just passed state legislation in California that will increase road repair revenue for the first time in more than 20 years. It will help, but we need a national infrastructure bill that also devotes additional money to help rural counties fix roads and bridges, improve the safety of the traveling public, and boost commerce and economic activity.”

“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.”