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ARTBA Leads the Way on Transportation Infrastructure Investment & Innovation

ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger, left, testifies at a July 16 congressional hearing.

By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

ARTBA’s volunteer leaders, members, and staff this week in Washington, D.C., advocated for the transportation design and construction industry on several fronts:

  • July 16: ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger, chairman of The Lane Construction Corporation, told a congressional hearing that the best way to increase investment in public transit and other transportation options is to provide a permanent revenue solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF).  “Congress’s chronic failure to fix the Highway Trust Fund program threatens all federal surface transportation programs,” he said. His remarks drew praise from the top Democratic and Republican leaders of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
  • July 17: More than 80 people from 26 states attended the 6th Annual National Workshop for State & Local Transportation, a signature program of ARTBA’s Transportation Investment Advocacy Center™ (TIAC). “The importance of this event likely isn’t lost on anyone here,” ARTBA President and CEO Dave Bauer said during his welcome remarks. While 31 states have increased their gas tax since 2013 and taken other measure to increase investment, the federal gas tax has not been increased since 1993 and the trust fund revenue shortfall has not been addressed.
  • July 17-19: Professionals from design and construction firms, federal and state government agencies, and the legal and finance sectors gathered for the 31st Annual Public-Private Partnerships (P3) in Transportation Conference. In spirited panel discussions, industry experts discussed shifts in P3 risk, the impact of federal deregulation, and new market opportunities. ARTBA’s P3 Division announced its annual award winners, mentored the next generation of industry leaders, and named its new officers for the coming year.

ARTBA is pressing members of the Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee to develop a surface transportation reauthorization bill before Congress recesses for its summer break.

“It’s common to belittle the outlook for action on infrastructure,” Bauer said in his welcoming remarks to the P3 Conference, “but over the last two years we’ve had $10 billion of additional investment, and the EPW Committee is working on a reauthorization bill one year early instead of multiple years late.”

Bauer emphasized, however, that, “While we are not where we want to be, we are clearly moving in the right direction.”

ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger Calls for Permanent Highway Trust Fund Revenue Solution at House Hearing

ARTBA Chairman Bob Alger Calls for Permanent Highway Trust Fund Revenue Solution at House Hearing

Association Also Voices Support for Transit Capital Investment Program

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Chairman Bob Alger today called on Congress to increase investment in the transit Capital Investment Program (CIG) but said it is best achieved in the broader context of legislation that provides a permanent revenue solution for the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF).

Alger, chairman of Connecticut-based Lane Construction Corporation, represented the association at a House Highways & Transit Subcommittee Hearing on “Oversight of the Federal Transit Administration’s Implementation of the Capital Investment Grant Program.”

While voicing support for the CIG program, Alger said, “Congress’s chronic failure to fix the Highway Trust Fund program threatens all federal surface transportation programs, including transit projects.”

The next Highway Trust Fund crisis looms shortly after the 2015 FAST Act surface transportation law expires in October 2020, Alger said. He noted Congress and previous administrations had initiated more than $140 billion dollars in General Fund transfers and budget gimmicks to prop up current federal highway and public transit investment levels.

While the CIG program is traditionally supported with general revenue dollars through the annual appropri­ations process, continued uncertainty or disruption to HTF program funding will adversely impact all federal surface transportation programs, including CIG. As an example, during the lead up to the FAST Act, such uncer­tainty about future federal investment and HTF solvency caused seven states in 2015 to delay roughly $1.6 billion in planned transportation projects, ARTBA said.

Alger highlighted three key options that Congress should consider to permanently fix the HTF: 1) raise the federal gasoline and diesel user fee rates; 2) apply a freight-based user fee to heavy trucks; and 3) institute a fee to ensure electric vehicle users also help pay for the system from which they benefit.

In a recent comprehensive 32-page report with legislative recommendations for reauthorization of the FAST Act, ARTBA called on Congress to boost investment in the CIG program beyond the current $2.3 billion annual levels.

Alger’s testimony also addressed the need for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to improve its regulatory and project delivery process so that projects can be completed on time and within budget. According to FTA’s Capital Cost Database, which compiles as-built costs for 54 federally funded transit projects, average costs for delivering these projects increases an average of five percent annually. As a result, a project that costs $100 million in 2019 would cost $163 million to build in 2029, or more than twice the rate of general inflation.

Another key factor that can keep transportation construction projects on schedule is the use of dispute resolution boards. Such entities should include members recommended by the project owner, contractor or industry and should set up quick and efficient timelines so that members can carefully follow its progress, Alger said.

Read Alger’s full written testimony.

Established in 1902, ARTBA is the “consensus voice” of the U.S. transportation design and construction industry in the Nation’s Capital. For more information visit artba.org

Ad Campaign Targets Key Lawmakers and Highlights Urgent Need for Investment to Modernize Infrastructure

The transportation construction industry and business community are launching an ad campaign on two fronts this summer to keep the pressure on Congress and the Trump administration for action in 2019 on a permanent Highway Trust Fund (HTF) fix and a new transportation infrastructure package.

A key campaign component is a social media focused effort aimed at generating grassroots support. It uses “Conversation Cards” targeted at the Twitter followers of dozens of key members of the House Ways & Means and Senate Finance Committees, which have the responsibility for developing the funding mechanisms for surface transportation legislation or an infrastructure package. Twitter followers of these lawmakers can send this message: “Our national transportation infrastructure is severely underfunded, which is crippling our economy and endangering lives. The time for Congress to fix this is now—ask @ [member of Congress] to start work today to get our nation moving in the right direction again.”

The effort is complemented by digital and Twitter ads aimed at members of Congress, their staffs and other D.C. policymakers that spotlight the impacts of traffic congestion on the U.S. economy and highlight how the nation is investing in infrastructure at half the rate of the Space Age nearly 50 years ago. The ads drive the target audiences to an opinion editorial in Politico. The piece notes the key priorities: “Job #1 is providing a permanent, dedicated, growing, user-fee based HTF [Highway Trust Fund] revenue stream to support the increased transportation investments advocated by President Trump and members of Congress from both parties. Job #2 is ensuring expanded HTF [Highway Trust Fund] resources in a transportation infrastructure package are dedicated to projects that will facilitate long-term regional and national economic growth while creating new jobs.”

The campaign is a joint initiative of the Transportation Construction Coalition (TCC) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce-led Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition. The TCC and ATM ads will run throughout the remainder of June and during July.

Established in 1996 and co-chaired by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) and the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), the 31 associations and labor unions that make up the TCC have a direct market interest in the federal transportation program. A complete list of members can be found at www.transportationconstructioncoalition.org.

The Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) coalition was established by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 2000. It brings together businesses, the labor and union sectors, transportation stakeholders, and the public to advocate a robust transportation infrastructure grid in the United States. This includes promoting ongoing and sustainable funding through policies and broad-based initiatives.

For more information visit www.artba.org

ARTBA Foundation Announces Financial Assistance to 16 Children of Fallen Highway Workers

Sixteen children of highway workers who were killed or permanently disabled on the job will receive post-high school financial assistance for the 2019-20 school year from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation’s (ARTBA-TDF) “Lanford Family Highway Worker Memorial Scholarship” fund.

Now in its 20th year, the program was established with a gift from two Roanoke, Virginia, highway contractors and their companies—Stan Lanford (1999 ARTBA chairman) of Lanford Brothers, and Jack Lanford (1991 ARTBA chairman), with Adams Construction Company. Over 100 highway workers are killed annually in roadway construction and maintenance accidents, and thousands more are seriously injured.

The scholarship fund is supported today by transportation design and construction firms and their executives, labor unions, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), and industry foundations.

More than 180 scholarships have been given to students from 32 states to pursue undergraduate and graduate courses as well as technical training.

The 2019 class includes:

Caitlyn Rains, Proctor, Ark.

Caitlyn’s father, James “Bubba” Rains, was killed in 2013 while working in a night construction zone for APAC Tennessee. Caitlyn is studying respiratory therapy at Arkansas State University, where she will be a junior.

Stan Jones, Jr., Gaston, S.C.

Stan’s father, Standra Jones, Sr., died in 2007 after being struck by a vehicle while at work for the South Carolina Department of Transportation. Stan will be in his first year of graduate studies in architecture at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Willie Blevins, Athens, Ga.

Willie’s mother, Kathy Blevins, worked for the Gwinnett County Department of Transportation. She had just finished painting turn-lane lines when her vehicle was struck and she was killed in 2004. Willie, a mechanical engineering major, will be a senior at the University of Georgia.

Amy McNeil Graves & Misty McNeil, Lumberton, Texas

Amy and Misty’s father, Jeffrey McNeil, was killed in 2005 while working for the Texas Department of Transportation. Amy is in a registered nursing school at Lamar State College in Port Arthur. Misty will be a junior at Lamar Institute of Technology in Beaumont where she studies radiological technology.

Victoria Markle, Port Charlotte, Fla.

Victoria’s father, John Markle, was struck and killed on Florida’s I-75 in March 2016 while working for Ajax Paving Industries. Victoria is majoring in early childhood education and will be a junior at Charlotte Technical College in Port Charlotte.

Kristen & Jenna Jares, West, Texas

Kristen and Jenna’s father, Gregory Jares, was killed in 2001 while working for the Texas Department of Transportation special crews. Jenna will be a freshman studying occupational therapy at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, where her sister Kristen is a senior majoring in exercise physiology.

Hadley Voudrie, Trussville, Ala.

Hadley’s father, Darin Voudrie, was struck and killed while working for Jefferson County Roads and Transportation in 2015. Hadley will be a sophomore at Jefferson State Community College in Birmingham, where she studies elementary education.

Carolyn Lillis, Philomath, Ore.

Carolyn’s father, Scott Lillis, was permanently disabled in 2015 while driving in a work zone for his employer Knife River Corporation. Carolyn will be a sophomore at Oregon State University in Corvallis where she studies physical therapy.

Mashawn Blubaugh, Howard, Ohio

Mashawn’s father, Shawn Blubaugh, died in 2010 while working for the Ohio Department of Transportation. Mashawn will be a sophomore at Kent State University and is majoring in early childhood education.

Jacob Schwarz, Monee, Ill.

Jacob’s father, David Schwarz, was killed in 2017 while operating equipment for the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority. Jacob studies animation with a concentration in computers at Columbia College in Chicago. He will be a senior.

Kaitlyn Henry, Chicago, Ill.

Kaitlyn’s dad, Gary Henry, was struck by a construction vehicle and killed in 2013 while working on a state highway construction project on Interstate 270 near Columbus, Ohio. Kaitlyn is pursuing her master’s in applied behavior analysis at Ball State in Muncie, Ind.

Andrea Pair, Spiro, Okla.

Andrea’s father, Shannon Pair, was struck and killed while working for Time Striping Inc., in 1998. Andrea is in her second year of graduate school at Harding University’s College of Pharmacy in Searcy, Ark.

Cirar Butler, Gunnison, Miss.

Cirar’s father, Henry Butler, Jr., was killed was driving a Mississippi Department of Transportation work truck during highway repairs in 2014. Cirar will be a junior studying physical therapy at Mississippi Valley State University in Itta Bena.

Faith Shoemaker, Webster, S.D.

Faith’s father, John Shoemaker, was killed in an aviation accident while returning from a job site for Webster Scale Inc., a highway construction and heavy equipment company. Faith is studying construction management at South Dakota State University in Brookings.

The scholarship fund received financial support in 2018 from the following:

  • Fernandez Pave the Way Foundation
  • Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance
  • Paul & Anita Yarossi
  • Brian Weidman
  • York County Community Foundation
  • The de Moya Group
  • AASHTO
  • Paul Drury, Patriarch Contracting LLC
  • Donald and Dorothy Stabler Foundation
  • Blue River Foundation
  • Ajax Paving Industries of Florida
  • John K. Hale, Jr.
  • Stan & Elise Lanford
  • Louis Berger Charitable Foundation
  • Beaty Construction, Inc. & C-Tech Corp.
  • Ananth Prasad
  • Construction Industries of Massachusetts

Established in 1985, the ARTBA Foundation is a 501(c) 3 tax-exempt entity designed to “promote research, education and public awareness” about the impacts of transportation investment. It supports an array of initiatives, including educational scholarships, awards, management and education programs, roadway work zone safety training, special economic research and reports, American National Standards Institute-accredited transportation project safety certification, and an exhibition on transportation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.

 

 

TRIP: U.S. RURAL ROADS & BRIDGES HAVE SIGNIFICANT DEFICIENCIES & HIGH FATALITY RATES; REPAIRS & MODERNIZATION NEEDED TO IMPROVE CONDITIONS, BOOST SAFETY & SUPPORT GROWTH & CONNECTIVITY

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. With increases in population and growing employment, rural America is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system to sustain further growth. This is according to a new report released today by TRIP, a national transportation research nonprofit. 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 immediate improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, high crash rates, and inadequate connectivity and capacity. The chart below shows the states with the highest rate of rural pavements in poor condition, states with the highest share of rural bridges that are rated poor/structurally deficient, and states with the highest fatality rates on non-Interstate, rural roads.

The report finds that the nation’s rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies. Fifteen percent of U.S. rural roads are rated in poor condition, while 21 percent are in mediocre condition. Seventeen percent of the nation’s rural roads are in fair condition and the remaining 47 percent are in good condition. Nine percent of the nation’s rural bridges are rated in poor/structurally deficient condition, meaning there is significant deterioration to the major components of the bridge. Poor/structurally deficient bridges 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.  Forty-six percent of rural bridges are rated fair.  A fair rating indicates that a bridge’s structural elements are sound but minor deterioration has occurred to the bridge’s deck, substructure or superstructure.

“Farmers and ranchers depend on rural roads, highways and bridges for daily life and to move their products to market,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “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, American agriculture competitive and rural Americans safe.”

In addition to deteriorated roads and bridges, the TRIP report finds that traffic crashes and fatalities on rural non-Interstate roads are disproportionately high, occurring at a rate nearly two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. In 2017, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.14 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.88 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. 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.

“This report highlights again the critical need for federal action to modernize our nation’s infrastructure,” said Ed Mortimer, vice president of transportation infrastructure of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  “We have a historic opportunity to address many rural infrastructure needs with President Trump and Congress discussing a major infrastructure bill. Let’s hope they act to address this critical issue!”

The TRIP report found that America’s rural population, which had declined slightly from 2010 to 2016, increased in 2017, adding an additional 33,000 people.  The modest rebound in rural population is likely a result of increased employment and declining poverty, the report found.  The number of jobs in rural America increased by 370,000 from 2013 to 2017 and the rural unemployment rate has decreased steadily from 10.3 percent in 2010 to 4.4 percent in 2017.  The rural poverty rate, which is the percentage of people who are making below the amount of money deemed necessary to have a basic standard of living, has decreased from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 16.4 percent in 2017, the TRIP report noted.

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.

“Rural roads play a critical role in supporting the transportation needs of millions of Americans every day,” said Kathleen Bower, AAA senior vice president of public affairs and international relations. “Damaged and deteriorating roadways too often result in deadly crashes, and it is time to act. Making critical safety improvements to rural roads will save thousands of lives each year and help move our economy forward.”

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 the quality of life and enhance economic productivity.

“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. Our 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.”

WWW.TRIPNET.ORG

Executive Summary

America’s rural heartland plays a vital role as home to a significant share of the nation’s population, many of its natural resources, and popular tourist destinations. It is also the primary source of the energy, food, and fiber that supports America’s economy and way of life. The strength of the nation’s rural economy is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system, particularly the roads and highways that link rural America with the rest of the U.S. and to markets in other countries. The quality and connectivity of America’s rural transportation system support the economy of the entire nation and quality of life for the approximately 60 million Americans living in rural areas.

Good transportation is essential in rural areas to provide access to jobs, to facilitate the movement of goods and people, to access opportunities for health care and educational skills, and to provide links to other social services. Transportation supports businesses and is a critical factor in a company’s decision to locate new business operations. For communities that rely on tourism and natural amenities to help support their economy, transportation is the key link between visitors and destinations.

Roads, highways, rails, and bridges in the nation’s heartland 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 they experience fatal traffic crashes at a rate far higher than all other roads and highways. This report looks at the condition, use and safety of the nation’s rural transportation system, particularly its roads, highways and bridges, and identifies needed improvements.

Rural areas in this report are based on the U.S. Census Bureau definition, which defines rural areas as regions outside of urban areas with a population of 2,500 or more.  Road, bridge and safety data in this report is based on the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) definition for rural areas, which allows states to use the U.S. Census Bureau definition to identify rural routes or to define rural areas as regions outside of urban areas with a population of 5,000 or more. The following are the key findings of the report.

AMERICA’S RURAL HEARTLAND

Rural America is the primary source of energy, food, and fiber that drives the U.S. economy.  The decline in the rural population has been halted largely due to increasing employment and declining poverty. 

  • The U.S. Census Bureau defines rural areas as regions outside of urban areas with a population of 2,500 or more.
  • According to the U.S. Census Bureau definition, 19 percent of the nation’s residents live in rural areas – approximately 60 million people.
  • The nation’s rural areas account for 97 percent of America’s land area and are home to the vast majority of the nation’s 2.2 million farms.
  • America’s rural population, which had declined slightly from 2010 to 2016, increased in 2017, adding an additional 33,000 people.  The modest rebound in rural population is likely a result of increased employment and declining poverty.
  • The number of jobs in rural America increased by 370,000 from 2013 to 2017, and the rural unemployment rate has decreased steadily from 10.3 percent in 2010 to 4.4 percent in 2017.
  • The rural poverty rate, which is the percentage of people making below the amount of money deemed necessary to have a basic standard of living, has decreased from 18.4 percent in 2013 to 16.4 percent in 2017.
  • America’s rural economy is far more reliant on goods production, which includes farming, forestry, fishing, mining and energy extraction, and manufacturing that is the nation’s urban economy.
  • Many of the transportation challenges facing rural America are similar to those in urbanized areas. However, rural residents tend to be more heavily reliant on their limited transportation network – primarily rural roads and highways – than their counterparts in urban areas. Residents of rural areas often must travel long distances to access education, employment, retail locations, social opportunities, and health services.
  • Nineteen percent of the rural population is 65 years or older, compared to 15 percent in urban areas.
  • 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.
  • The amount of rural tourism in a region is tied partly to the level of highway access. Eighty-six percent of trips taken by Americans to visit rural areas are for leisure purposes.
  • Popular tourist activities in rural America include hiking, golfing, biking, hunting, fishing and water sports. Rural areas are also home to beaches, national and state parks, wineries, orchards, and other national amenities.

RURAL QUALITY OF LIFE AND ECONOMIC VITALITY RELY ON TRANSPORTATION

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 network 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.

  • Freight mobility and efficiency are fundamental to rural economic vitality and prosperity. Economic growth and stability in rural areas are heavily reliant on the ability to move raw materials into, or the value-added products out of, these areas.
  • Agriculture, food, and related industries, including food and beverage manufacturing, apparel manufacturing and food and beverage stores and establishments — which rely on agricultural inputs — contributed $1.05 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. This represents 5.7 percent of overall U.S. GDP.
  • While farming accounts for just six percent of all jobs in rural America, for every person employed in farming there are seven more jobs in agribusiness, including wholesale and retail trade, processing, marketing, production, and distribution.
  • Employment in goods production, which includes farming, forestry, fishing, mining and energy extraction, accounts for 11 percent of earnings in the nation’s rural economy versus two percent in the urban economy.
  • Manufacturing jobs account for 15 percent of earnings in the nation’s rural economy versus nine percent in the urban economy.
  • A United States Department of Agriculture(USDA) report found that “an effective transportation system supports rural economies, reducing the prices farmers pay for inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, raising the value of their crops and greatly increasing market access.”
  • Trucks provide the majority of transportation for agricultural products, accounting for 47 percent of total ton-miles of travel compared to 37 percent by rail and eight percent by barge.
  • The Council of State Governments found that “rural highways provide many benefits to the nation’s transportation system, including serving as a bridge to other states, supporting the agriculture and energy industries, connecting economically challenged citizens in remote locations to employers, enabling the movement of people and freight, and providing access to America’s tourist attractions.”
  • Transportation is becoming an even more critical segment of the food distribution network. While food demand is concentrated mostly in urban areas, food distribution is the most dispersed segment of the economy.
  • A highly competitive and efficient transportation system can lead to lower food costs for U.S. consumers and higher market prices for producers due to lower shipping costs, smaller margins, and more competitive export prices.
  • A report by the Pacific Economic Cooperation Council recommends that governments improve the quality of their transportation systems serving the movement of goods from rural to urban regions as a strategy to lower food costs and increase economic prosperity.
  • A report on agricultural transportation by the USDA found it likely that market changes and shifts in consumer preferences would further increase the reliance on trucking to move U.S. agricultural products.

RURAL CONNECTIONS TO TOURISM AND RECREATION

The condition and quality of the nation’s highway system plays a critical role in providing access to America’s many tourist destinations, particularly its scenic parks and recreational areas, which are mostly located in rural areas.

  • America’s 418 national parks, which are largely located in rural areas, received a record 318 million visitors in 2018, many in personal vehicles.
  • In 2018, domestic and international travelers in the U.S. spent approximately $1.1 trillion.
  • Travel and tourism spending in the U.S. in 2018 supported 8.9 million jobs.

RURAL ACCESS TO ENERGY SOURCES

Travel loads on America’s rural roads are increasing, due partly to the booming energy extraction sector. This has been driven by increases in domestic oil and gas extraction, largely as a result of advancements in hydraulic fracturing (fracking), which has greatly increased the accessibility of shale oil and gas deposits, and the increased production of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

  • Ethanol production in the U.S. increased from 1.6 billion gallons in 2000 to 16.1 billion gallons in 2018.
  • U.S. production of liquid fuels, including crude oil and natural gas, increased 74 percent from 2000 to 2018, increasing liquid fuel’s share of overall U.S. energy production (including coal and nuclear) from 48 to 63 percent.
  • U.S. production of renewable energy, including wind and solar, increased 92 percent from 2000 to 2018, increasing renewable energy’s share of overall U.S. energy production from nine to 12 percent.
  • The development of significant new oil and gas fields in numerous areas, particularly in the North Central Plains, and increased agricultural production are placing increased traffic loads by large trucks on non-Interstate rural roads, which often have not been constructed to carry such high load volumes.
  • The average travel per-lane-mile by large trucks on rural Interstate highways in the U.S. increased by 33 percent from 2000 to 2017.

RURAL TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGE: CONNECTIVITY

The potential for additional economic growth in many rural areas is being impeded by the failure to significantly modernize the nation’s rural transportation system and provide for adequate connectivity.

  • Sixty-six U.S. cities with a population of 50,000 or more do not have direct access to the Interstate Highway System (Appendix A).
  • Rural transportation accessibility and connectivity are critical to transportation-dependent business sectors, including the growing energy production sector, advanced manufacturing and tourism. Many jobs located in urban areas also depend on economic input from rural communities.
  • Since the routes for the Interstate Highway System were designated in 1956, the nation’s population has nearly doubled, from 165 million to 327 million.
  • The abandonment of more than 100,000 miles of rail lines in recent decades, mostly in rural areas, has reduced access in many rural communities and increased reliance on trucking for freight movement.
  • A report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials(AASHTO) found that connectivity is particularly poor in rural portions of Western states because of the significant distance between Interstate highway routes and the lack of adequate rail service.
  • Only 60 percent of rural counties nationwide have public transportation available. Twenty-eight percent of those have very limited service.
  • Residents of rural areas often must travel long 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 emergency response services including police, fire or medical assistance.

RURAL TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGE: SAFETY

Traffic fatalities on the nation’s rural, non-Interstate roads occur at a rate approximately two-and-a-half times higher than on all other roads. A disproportionate share of fatalities takes place on rural roads compared to the amount of traffic they carry.

  • Rural, non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly two-and-a-half times higher than all other roads. In 2017, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.14 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel (VMT), compared to a fatality rate of 0.88 deaths per 100 million VMT on all other roads.
  • Rural, non-Interstate routes accounted for 22 percent of all VMT in the U.S. in 2017. However, crashes on the nation’s rural, non-Interstate routes resulted in 41 percent (15,205 of 37,133) of the nation’s traffic deaths in 2017.
  • The chart below identifies the 25 states that led the nation in the number of rural non-Interstate traffic deaths in 2017. Data for all states is available in Appendix B.

  • The chart below identifies the 25 states with the highest rate of rural non-Interstate traffic fatalities per 100 million VMT, and the fatality rate per 100 million VMT on all other roads in the state in 2017. Data for all states is available in Appendix C.

The higher traffic fatality rate found on rural non-Interstate routes is a result of multiple factors, including a lack of desirable roadway safety features, longer emergency vehicle response times, and the higher speeds traveled on rural roads compared to urban roads.

  • Rural roads are more likely than urban roads to have roadway features that reduce safety, including narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, exposed hazards, pavement drop-offs, steep slopes and limited clear zones along roadsides.
  • Because many rural routes have been constructed over a period of years, they often have inconsistent design features for such things as lane widths, curves, shoulders and clearance zones along roadsides.
  • Rural roads are more likely than urban roads to be two-lane routes. Eighty-six percent of the nation’s rural non-freeway arterial roads have two-lanes, compared to 56 percent of urban non-freeway arterial routes.
  • Rural roads are more likely than urban roads to have narrow lanes. A desirable lane width for collector and arterial roadways is at least 11 feet. Twenty-three percent of rural collector and arterial roads have lane widths of 10 feet or less, compared to 18 percent of urban collector and arterial roads.
  • Most head-on crashes on rural, non-Interstate roads are likely caused by a motorist making an unintentional maneuver as a result of driver fatigue, being distracted or driving too fast in a curve.
  • While driver behavior is a significant factor in traffic crash rates, both safety belt usage and impaired driving rates are similar in their involvement rate as a factor in urban and rural traffic crashes.

Many roadway safety improvements can be made to reduce serious crashes and traffic fatalities. These improvements are designed largely to keep vehicles from leaving the correct lane and to reduce the consequences of a vehicle leaving the roadway. Making needed roadway safety improvements would result in a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious injuries. 

  • The U.S. has a $146 billion backlog in needed roadway safety improvements, according to a 2017 report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The report found implementing these cost-effective and needed roadway safety improvements on U.S. roadways would save approximately 63,700 lives and reduce the number of serious injuries as a result of traffic crashes by approximately 350,000 over 20 years.
  • The type of safety design improvements that are appropriate for a section of rural road will depend partly on the nature of the safety problem on that section of road and the amount of funding available.
  • Low-cost safety improvements include installing rumble strips along the centerline and sides of roads, improving signage and pavement/lane markings including higher levels of retroreflectivity, installing lighting, removing or shielding roadside obstacles, using chevrons and post-mounted delineators to indicate roadway alignment along curves, adding skid-resistant surfaces at curves, and upgrading or adding guardrails.
  • Moderate-cost improvements include adding turn lanes at intersections, resurfacing pavements and adding median barriers.
  • Moderate to high-cost improvements include improving roadway alignment, reducing the angle of curves, widening lanes, converting conventional intersections to roundabouts, adding or paving shoulders, adding intermittent passing lanes, or adding a third or fourth lane.
  • Systemic installation of cost-effective safety solutions and devices in rural areas helps to improve safety not just by targeting individual safety problem points on a road, but also making entire segments safer by improving those roadway segments that exhibit the characteristics that typically result in fatal or serious-injury crashes.

RURAL TRANSPORTATION CHALLENGES: DEFICIENT ROAD AND BRIDGE CONDITIONS

The nation’s rural roads, highways, and bridges have significant deficiencies and deterioration. Fourteen percent of the nation’s rural roads have pavements in poor condition, and nearly one-in-ten of the nation’s rural bridges need rehabilitation, repair or replacement.

  • In 2017, 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads (arterials and collectors) were rated in poor condition, 21 percent were rated in mediocre condition, 17 percent were rated in fair condition and 47 percent were rated in good condition.
  • The chart below ranks the 25 states with the greatest percentage of rural roads in poor condition in 2017. Rural pavement conditions for all states can be found in Appendix D.

  • In 2018, nine percent of the nation’s rural bridges were rated as poor/structurally deficient. Forty-six percent of rural bridges were rated fair and forty-six percent of rural bridges were rated in good condition. A bridge is rated poor/structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Poor/structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, agricultural equipment, school buses, and emergency services vehicles.  A fair rating indicates that a bridge’s structural elements are sound but minor deterioration has occurred to the bridge’s deck, substructure or superstructure.
  • The chart below ranks the 25 states with the highest share of rural bridges rated poor/structurally deficient in 2018. Rural bridge conditions for all states can be found in Appendix E.

TRANSPORTATION OPPORTUNITIES IN RURAL AMERICA

America must adopt transportation policies that improve rural transportation connectivity, safety and conditions to provide the nation’s small communities and rural areas with a level of safe and efficient access that will support the quality of life and enhance economic productivity. TRIP recommends the following for an improved rural transportation system, based partially on findings and recommendations made by AASHTO, the National Highway Cooperative Research Program (NCHRP), the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the Ports-to-Plains Alliance.

Improve access and connectivity in America’s small communities and rural areas

  • Widen and extend key highway routes, including Interstates, to increase connectivity to smaller and emerging communities to facilitate access to jobs, education, and healthcare, while improving access for agriculture, energy, manufacturing, forestry, tourism and other critical segments of the rural economy.
  • An NCHRP report found that the construction of an additional 30,000 lane miles of limited access highways, largely along existing corridors, is needed to address the nation’s need for increased rural connectivity.
  • Modernize major two-lane roads and highways so they can accommodate increased personal and commercial travel.
  • Improve public transit service in rural America to provide improved mobility for people without access to private vehicles.

Improve rural traffic safety

  • Adequately fund needed rural roadway safety improvements and provide enhanced enforcement, education and improved emergency response to reduce the rate of rural traffic fatalities.
  • Implement cost-effective roadway safety improvements, including rumble strips, shoulder improvements, lane widening, curve reductions, skid-resistant surfaces at curves, passing lanes, intersection improvements and improved signage, pavement markings and lighting, guardrails and barriers, and improved shielding of obstacles.

Improve the condition of rural roads, highways, and bridges

  • Adequately fund local and state transportation programs to ensure sufficient preservation of rural roads, highways, and bridges to maintain transportation service and accommodate large truck travel, which is needed to support the rural economy.

FEDERAL TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

America’s ability to address its rural transportation challenges would 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 current five-year federal surface transportation program includes modest funding increases and provides states with greater funding certainty, but falls far short of providing the level of funding needed to meet the nation’s highway and transit needs.

  • The USDOT report found that the nation’s current $105 billion investment in roads, highways, and bridges by all levels of government should be increased by 35 percent to $142.5 billion annually to improve the conditions of roads, highways and bridges, relieve traffic congestion, and improve traffic safety.

 All data used in this report is the most current available. Sources of information for this report include: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Council of State Governments (CSG) and the U.S. Census Bureau.