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JUNE 27, 2017 AT 6:00 A.M. EDT                             Carolyn Bonifas Kelly (703) 801-9212          
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NORTH DAKOTA’S RURAL BRIDGES HAVE HIGH RATES OF DEFICIENCIES; STATE’S RURAL TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM IN NEED OF MODERNIZATION TO BETTER SUPPORT ECONOMIC GROWTH AND CONNECTIVITY
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 eight percent of North Dakota’s rural roads are rated in poor condition and 15 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Sixteen percent of North Dakota’s rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the eighth highest rate in the nation. The rate of traffic fatalities on North Dakota’s non-Interstate, rural roads – 1.9 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel – is nearly four times higher than the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.

“If we don’t properly plan for future infrastructure funding and maintenance, our agriculture and energy economies become stagnant,” said Scott Meske, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Chamber of Commerce. “Policymakers at all levels can’t continue to kick the can down the gravel road in hopes that current infrastructure funding mechanisms meet our future needs. Even in our urban regions in North Dakota, continued economic growth hinges on proper infrastructure planning and funding.”

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 and bridges are far too often overlooked. With fatality rates rising, repairing and maintaining the transportation infrastructure must be a top priority for legislators,” said Gene LaDoucer, North Dakota spokesman for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “By investing in improvements for today and tomorrow, we can deliver safer experiences for motorists and save lives.”

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.  

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."

America’s rural economy depends on a reliable and efficient transportation system. “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.”