Thursday, October 13, 2022

Rocky Moretti (202) 262-0714
Carolyn Bonifas Kelly (703) 801-9212


Eds: TRIP’s 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 the full report, appendices, infographics and video interview footage with report author.

Washington, D.C. –America’s rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization to support economic growth and improve traffic safety, but the US faces a $180 billion backlog in funding for needed repairs and improvements to the rural transportation system. This is according to a new report released today by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. The report, Rural Connections: Examining the Safety, Connectivity, Condition and Funding Needs of America’s Rural Roads & Bridges, 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 immediate improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity.

Roads, highways, rails and bridges in the nation’s rural areas face a number of significant challenges: they lack adequate capacity; they fail to provide needed levels of connectivity to many communities; and, they cannot adequately support growing freight travel in many corridors. Rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies and deterioration, they lack many desirable safety features, and rural non-Interstate roads experience fatal traffic crashes at a rate far higher than all other roads and highways.

The chart below ranks states based on their rate of rural pavements in poor condition, share of rural bridges that are rated poor/structurally deficient, and fatality rates on non-Interstate, rural roads.

The report finds that Maine’s rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies. Fifteen percent of Maine’s rural bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, the sixth highest rate in the nation. Bridges rated poor/structurally deficient have significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge and are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including agricultural equipment, commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles. Twenty percent of Maine’s rural roads are rated in poor condition – the tenth highest rate in the nation- and 23 percent are in mediocre condition. The rate of traffic fatalities on Maine’s non-Interstate, rural roads is more than double the fatality rate on all other roads in the state – 1.67 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel vs. 0.71. There were 123 fatalities on Maine’s non-Interstate, rural roads in 2020. Rural roads are more likely to have narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, exposed hazards, pavement drop-offs, steep slopes and limited clear zones along roadsides.

“In Maine, rural communities are the backbone of our state. Having 20 percent of rural roads in poor condition puts our communities at a disadvantage, along with the many businesses and our citizens who depend on getting products to their customers,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce. “The longer we wait to make our roads, bridges, rail lines or any infrastructure safe, the more it will cost.”

America’s rural transportation system provides the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market, connects manufacturers to their customers, supports the tourism industry, and enables the production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts, with vehicle travel in rural communities averaging approximately 50 percent higher than in urban communities.

“Once again, TRIP’s report is an important reminder that neglecting our infrastructure has consequences for our economy and the safety of motorists,” said Patrick Moody of AAA Northern New England. “Last year 42,915 people died in motor crashes in the United States. We know that the vast majority of crashes are due to human error, but roads and bridges in poor condition add to the challenge of safe driving on our rural roads.”

Signed into law in November 2021, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) will provide a significant boost in federal investment in roads, bridges and transit and offers an opportunity for the nation to make progress in improving the safety, reliability and condition of America’s transportation system.  The IIJA will provide $454 billion over the five-year period from 2022 to 2026 for investment in highways and transit, resulting in a 38 percent increase in federal investment in 2022. The IIJA includes a $2 billion Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program that will support projects to improve and expand the surface transportation infrastructure in rural areas to increase connectivity, improve the safety and reliability of the movement of people and freight, and generate regional economic growth and improve quality of life.

“Farmers and ranchers depend on rural roads, highways and bridges to bring critical inputs like fertilizer and feed onto the farm and to move their products to market,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “As recent supply chain challenges have highlighted, transportation delays and costs take a bite out of our profitability and competitiveness and impact the quality of rural life.  Enactment of the IIJA will provide a significant boost to federal investment in roads and bridges and offers an opportunity to improve the safety, reliability and condition of America’s transportation system.”

An analysis of the  Status of the Nation’s Highways, Bridges and Transit Conditions and Performance Report, 24rd Edition report, submitted by the USDOT to Congress in 2021, indicates that the U.S. faces a $180 billion backlog in needed repairs and improvements to the nation’s rural roads, highways and bridges.  This includes a $109 billion backlog for rural road and highway rehabilitation, a $35 billion backlog for needed rural bridge rehabilitation, and a $36 billion backlog for needed rural roadway enhancements.

“The health of the nation’s economy and the safety and quality of life in America’s small communities and rural areas ride on our rural transportation system,” said Dave Kearby, executive director of TRIP.  “Providing the nation with a rural transportation network that supports rural America’s economy and will support its future development will require that the U.S. invest in a rural transportation system that is safe, efficient, and well-maintained, and that provides adequate mobility and connectivity to the nation’s rural communities.”