Monday, May 18, 2020

Rural roads need $211 billion in improvements and repairs, says report funded by road construction industry

Top 25 states with highest percentage of major rural roads in
poor conditions (TRIP map; click the image to enlarge it.)
A new report from a non-profit supported by road-construction companies says "America’s rural transportation faces a $211 billion backlog in repairs that contributes to high fatality rates," Liz Carey reports for The Daily Yonder. "At the same time, states transportation revenues are anticipated to see a $50 billion decrease in revenues leaving experts to question whether rural roads will see any improvements at all in the coming year."

The report comes from TRIP, which stands for The Road Information Program, its original name. TRIP says its "main objective is to generate widespread public concern about the need for continued reconstruction and improvement of America’s system of roads and bridges."

The report rated 13 percent of the nation's rural roads as being in poor condition and 21% in mediocre condition. Only 8% of rural bridges were listed in poor or structurally deficient condition, but 47% were deemed in fair condition, meaning they're structurally sound but have minor deterioration.

Rural roads are more than twice as deadly as urban roads, the report says, and that's often because of factors like "narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, pavement drop-offs, steep slopes, and limited clear zones alongside roadways," Carey reports. But many rural roads are facing increased wear and tear because of increased traffic from large trucks from new oil and gas fields.

Rural road and bridge repairs will be more difficult for states in the short tern, since they're projected to lose nearly one-third of their transportation revenue over the next 18 months, Carey reports: The pandemic has caused a decrease in traffic, meaning a decrease in purchases of gasoline and therefore a decrease in gasoline taxes collected.

The report defines rural areas as anything outside census-designated urban areas with a population of 2,500 or more. By that definition, about 60 million people, or 19% of the population, is rural.

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