Are Rural Roads Being Neglected?

A new report reveals why rural roads should get the same attention major roads do when it comes time for infrastructure spending.

Wed May 20, 2015 - National Edition
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The National Transportation Research Group TRIP has released a new report focusing on the special challenges that rural roads face in the current aging infrastructure crisis.

Among the findings of the report:

- Rural residents tend to be more heavily reliant on their limited transportation network – primarily rural roads and highways- than their counterparts in more urban areas. Residents of rural areas often must travel longer distances to access education, employment, retail locations, social opportunities and health services.

- The movement of retiring baby boomers to rural America is likely to continue in the future as aging Americans seek out communities that offer affordable housing, small-town quality of life and desirable natural amenities, while often located within a short drive of larger metropolitan areas.

- Eighty-six percent of trips taken by Americans to visit rural areas are for leisure purposes.

- Trucks provide the majority of transportation for agricultural products, accounting for 46 percent of total ton miles of travel compared to 36 percent by rail and 12 percent by barge.

- The rapid expansion of the energy extraction industry, particularly in the Great Plains states, has consumed rail capacity that had previously been used to move agricultural goods. As a result, the agricultural goods that had been shipped by rail are now being moved via alternate transportation means, placing additional stress on the rural highway system and increasing costs to farmers and consumers.

- America’s national parks, which are largely located in rural areas, received 274 million visitors in 2013, many in personal vehicles.

- Only 60 percent of rural counties nationwide have public transportation available and 28 percent of those have very limited service.

- Residents of rural areas often must travel longer distances to access education, employment, retail locations, social opportunities, and health services. Rural residents also assume additional risks as a result of living in areas that may be farther from police, fire or emergency medical services.

- In 2013, 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads (arterials and collectors) were rated in poor condition and another 39 percent were rated in mediocre or fair condition.

The full report can be read here.

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