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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 rural roads and bridges in Mississippi have significant deficiencies. Twenty-five percent of Mississippi’s rural roads are rated in poor condition, the fifth highest rate in the nation and 28 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Thirteen percent of Mississippi’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the twelfth highest rate in the nation. The rate of traffic fatalities on Mississippi’s non-Interstate, rural roads – 2.93 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel – is the fourth highest in the nation and more than four times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

“Cities, towns, and villages are responsible for more than 23,000 street miles,” said Shari Veazey, executive director of the Mississippi Municipal League.  “The Mississippi citizens who live in municipalities expect and deserve safe, well-maintained streets. If cities and towns can improve their street infrastructure, the climate for economic development will continue to improve and ultimately provide more jobs for Mississippians.”

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.

“Mississippi’s roads and bridges are continuing to deteriorate as expected, said Don Redman, AAA’s public affairs specialist. “The lack of additional resources to fund needed repairs and replacements insures the continuing decline of our basic transportation network. Along with moving up the delinquent list of states’ roads and bridges, lives will be lost, commerce impacted and the quality of life lessoned as additional resources go wanting. No time is too soon to turn this around and get the resources needed.”

“Mississippi’s county governments are responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the bulk of the state’s infrastructure. Mississippi counties are responsible for roughly 52,000 miles of roads, and of the 52,000 about 19,000 miles are eligible for state and federal assistance,” said Derrick Surrette, executive director of the Mississippi Association of Supervisors. “At least 70 percent of the county road mileage need pavement maintenance.  In addition, Mississippi counties are also responsible for the maintenance of nearly 10,000 bridges, and 30 percent of the county owned bridges are either deficient or posted. The longer it takes to implement a comprehensive plan to adequately address Mississippi’s crumbling infrastructure, the more expensive it will be in the long run. Currently, Mississippi needs about $400 million a year to seriously begin to play catch up to the demand in services regarding its infrastructure.”

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.

“Well maintained roads and bridges, both at the state and local level, are vitally important for Mississippi’s economy,” said Scott Waller, interim president and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council. “As a rural state, a safe and reliable transportation system is essential for supporting our business and consumer needs. We must continue to look for ways to increase the investment in infrastructure at the local, state and federal levels to ensure we maintain Mississippi’s economic competitiveness and protect the safety of our citizens.”

"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.”