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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                               Contact: Rocky Moretti (202) 262-0714
JULY 13, 2017                                                                                   Carolyn Bonifas Kelly (703) 801-9212                     
Report available at: www.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 the rate of traffic fatalities on Montana’s non-Interstate, rural roads – 2.81 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel – is the fifth highest in the nation and is more than three times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state. Nine percent of Montana’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the 25th highest rate in the nation. Eight percent of Montana’s rural roads are rated in poor condition and 15 percent are rated in mediocre condition.

“While we’re very pleased that the legislature and the Governor’s office came together to pass the first fuel tax increase in over two decades in Montana, we continue to face mounting roadway infrastructure deficits and need to continue the conversation about long-term solutions,” said Darryl James, executive director of the Montana Infrastructure Coalition.  “As a large and sparsely-populated state, we cannot ignore the critical importance of maintaining our rural roads for the safety of our rural families and the economic security of our agricultural sector. Our producers lie great distances from markets, so we need to think long term about appropriate investment in our transportation infrastructure to keep them connected and competitive.”     

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.

“Rural roads are where Montana farmers and ranchers make their living,” said Montana Farm Bureau President Hans McPherson.  “No one has to tell them that poorly maintained roads cost them a significant amount of money in wear and tear on trucks and equipment.”   

The number of fatalities and the fatality rate on rural, non-Interstate U.S. roads increased in 2105 after decreasing each year between 2012 and 2014. “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."

Rural America is home to the vast majority of tourist destinations, many of which rely on good access. “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 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 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.”