Tag Archive for 'U.S. Census Bureau'

ABC Says: Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips to Start 2017

Nonresidential construction spending contracted during January, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Nonresidential spending fell 1.9 percent from December to $698.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. This represents the first month total nonresidential construction spending dipped below $700 billion since July 2016.
Despite the monthly setback, year-over-year progress remains intact, with nonresidential spending increasing 1.5 percent since January 2016. However, in real terms, that represents virtually nonexistent growth. Private nonresidential spending remained unchanged for the month, while public sector spending plunged 4.7 percent. The greatest loss in spending volume occurred in the public safety, water supply and conservation and development segments.
“The significant loss in public construction spending momentum is hardly novel,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For several years, public funding for construction activity has been flat and erratic. Public budgets remain constrained by underfunded pensions, surging Medicaid expenditures, and other non-infrastructure-related needs.
“The new president’s speech on Tuesday night discussed the need for additional infrastructure investment,” said Basu. “If the president is able to implement his public-private partnership plan, public construction spending is set to soar. However, there are many obstacles to his plan coming to fruition.

“Private construction spending was also soft in January, but the outlook remains upbeat,” said Basu. “Corporate confidence is high, architects became much busier during the period immediately following the presidential election, and capital from banks and other sources should be broadly available to developers during the year ahead.”

January 2017 Nonresidential Construction Spending

ABC Says: Nonresidential Construction Spending Slips to Start 2017

Nonresidential construction spending contracted during January, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau released today by Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC). Nonresidential spending fell 1.9 percent from December to $698.4 billion on a seasonally adjusted, annualized basis. This represents the first month total nonresidential construction spending dipped below $700 billion since July 2016.
Despite the monthly setback, year-over-year progress remains intact, with nonresidential spending increasing 1.5 percent since January 2016. However, in real terms, that represents virtually nonexistent growth. Private nonresidential spending remained unchanged for the month, while public sector spending plunged 4.7 percent. The greatest loss in spending volume occurred in the public safety, water supply and conservation and development segments.
“The significant loss in public construction spending momentum is hardly novel,” said ABC Chief Economist Anirban Basu. “For several years, public funding for construction activity has been flat and erratic. Public budgets remain constrained by underfunded pensions, surging Medicaid expenditures, and other non-infrastructure-related needs.
“The new president’s speech on Tuesday night discussed the need for additional infrastructure investment,” said Basu. “If the president is able to implement his public-private partnership plan, public construction spending is set to soar. However, there are many obstacles to his plan coming to fruition.

“Private construction spending was also soft in January, but the outlook remains upbeat,” said Basu. “Corporate confidence is high, architects became much busier during the period immediately following the presidential election, and capital from banks and other sources should be broadly available to developers during the year ahead.”

January 2017 Nonresidential Construction Spending

TRIP Reports: Deficient Roadways Cost Montana Drivers $794 Million Annually.

 

Mdt Forecasts Annual Funding Shortfall Of Nearly $900 Million, Halting Or Delaying Projects Needed To Improve Conditions, Enhance Economic Development Or Improve Safety

Roads and bridges that are deteriorated, congested or lack desirable safety features cost Montana motorists a total of $794 million statewide annually – as much as $1,417 per driver in some urban areas – due to higher vehicle operating costs, traffic crashes and congestion-related delays, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national nonprofit transportation research organization. These high costs come at a time when the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) estimates it will face an annual funding shortfall of $874 million through 2021, causing many needed projects to be halted or delayed. Increased investment in transportation improvements at the local, state and federal levels could improve road, bridge and transit conditions, boost safety, relieve traffic congestion and support long-term economic growth in Montana.

The TRIP report, Montana Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State’s Need for Safe, Smooth and Efficient Mobility,” finds that throughout Montana, 34 percent of major urban roads are in poor condition and nearly one-fifth of Montana’s bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The state’s traffic fatality rate is the third highest in the nation. Montana’s major urban roads are becoming increasingly congested, with drivers wasting significant amounts of time and fuel each year.

The MDT estimates it will face an $874 million average annual shortfall through 2021 in the investment level needed to make further progress in improving road, highway and bridge conditions; improving traffic safety; and, completing needed modernization improvements to enhance economic development opportunities. As a result of a lack of transportation funding, MDT has delayed $144.5 million in road projects that had been scheduled to begin in 2017.

Driving on deficient roads costs Montana drivers $794 million per year in the form of extra vehicle operating costs (VOC) as a result of driving on roads in need of repair, lost time and fuel due to congestion-related delays, and the costs of traffic crashes in which roadway features likely were a contributing factor. The TRIP report calculates the cost to motorists of insufficient roads in the Billings, Great Falls and Missoula urban areas. A breakdown of the costs per motorist in each area along with a statewide total is below.

The TRIP report finds that 34 percent of major urban roads in Montana are in poor condition, while 40 percent are rated in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 26 percent are in good condition. Driving on deteriorated roads costs Montana drivers an additional $296 million each year in extra vehicle operating costs, including accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs, and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.

We’ve been talking about our failing infrastructure and lack of funding for a long time now and have very little to show for all that hand-wringing,” said Darryl James, executive director of the Montana Infrastructure Coalition. “It’s time for a little less talk and a lot more action.”

A total of 18 percent of Montana’s bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet modern design standards. Eight percent of Montana’s bridges are structurally deficient, with significant deterioration to the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional ten percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete, which means they no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.

“The Montana Infrastructure Coalition is bringing a balanced package of bills supported by a broad spectrum of Montanans,” said Webb Brown, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.  “We expect some tough discussions but believe Montana’s lawmakers are ready to step to the plate and work on real solutions to these very real problems. We’re anxious to share our research and data to play a central role in that discussion.”

Traffic crashes in Montana claimed the lives of 1,024 people between 2010 and 2014. Montana’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.58 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel is significantly higher than the national average of 1.08 and is the third highest in the nation. The fatality rate on Montana’s rural non-Interstate roads was 2.41 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2014, approximately three times higher than the 0.79 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.

“Our transportation system is truly the network that binds our communities together in Montana,” said Steve Arveschoug, executive director of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority. “Our economic security depends on smart investment in infrastructure and it begins with clean water and roads and bridges that are safe and efficient.”

Traffic congestion in Montana is worsening, costing the state’s drivers $170 million annually in lost time and wasted fuel.

The efficiency and condition of Montana’s transportation system, particularly its highways, is critical to the health of the state’s economy. Annually, $101 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Montana, mostly by truck. Sixty-seven percent of the goods shipped annually to and from sites in Montana are carried by trucks and another 12 percent are carried by courier services or multiple mode deliveries, which include trucking.

“Conditions will worsen and additional projects will be delayed if greater funding is not made available at the state and local levels,” said Will Wilkins, TRIP’s executive director. “Without adequate investment, Montana’s roads and bridges will become increasingly deteriorated, inefficient and unsafe, hampering economic growth and quality of life.”

Executive Summary

Ten Key Transportation Numbers in Montana

 

 

 

$874 million

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) estimates it will face an $874 million average annual shortfall through 2021 in the investment level needed to make further progress in improving road, highway and bridge conditions; improving traffic safety; and, completing needed modernization improvements to enhance economic development opportunities.
 

50

This report includes information on 50 road, highway and bridge projects that currently cannot proceed due to lack of funding. These projects are needed to improve safety, support economic development opportunities and improve conditions in Montana.
$144.5 million The MDT has delayed $144.5 million in road projects that had been scheduled to begin in 2017 because of a lack of adequate funding.
 

32 percent

5th

25 percent

Vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in Montana increased by 32 percent from 2000 to 2015 –from 9.9 billion VMT in 2000 to 13 billion VMT in 2015. This was the fifth largest increase in VMT in the nation during that time. VMT in Montana is anticipated to increase by another 25 percent by 2030.
 

$794 million

Driving on deficient roads costs Montana motorists a total of $794 million annually in the form of additional vehicle operating costs (VOC), congestion-related delays and traffic crashes.
$1,113 – Billings

$1,417– Great Falls

$1,152 – Missoula

 

TRIP has calculated the cost to the average motorist in the form of additional VOC, congestion-related delays and traffic crashes. Driving on deficient roads costs the average Billings urban area driver $1,113 annually, while the average driver in the Great Falls area loses $1,417 and the average driver in the Missoula area loses $1,152.
1.58

3rd

Montana’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.58 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2014 was the third highest in the U.S. and much higher than the national average of 1.08.
34% – Montana

30% – Billings

52% – Great Falls

26% – Missoula

Thirty-four percent of Montana’s major urban roads are in poor condition. In the Billings, Great Falls and Missoula urban areas, 30 percent, 52 percent and 26 percent of major roads are in poor condition, respectively.
$101 Billion Annually, $101 billion in goods are shipped to and from sites in Montana, mostly by truck.
 

18%

A total of 18 percent of Montana bridges show significant deterioration or do not meet current design standards. Eight percent of the state’s bridges are structurally deficient and ten percent are functionally obsolete.

Nine years after the nation suffered a significant economic downturn, Montana’s economy continues to rebound. The rate of economic growth in Montana, which is greatly impacted by the reliability and condition of the state’s transportation system, has a significant impact on quality of life in the Treasure State.

An efficient, safe and well-maintained transportation system provides economic and social benefits by affording individuals access to employment, housing, healthcare, education, goods and services, recreation, entertainment, family, and social activities. It also provides businesses access to suppliers, markets and employees, all critical to a business’ level of productivity and ability to expand. Reduced accessibility and mobility – as a result of traffic congestion, a lack of adequate capacity, or deteriorated roads, highways, bridges and transit facilities – diminishes a region’s quality of life by reducing economic productivity and limiting opportunities for economic, health or social transactions and activities.

With an economy based largely on natural resource extraction, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism, the quality of Montana’s transportation system plays a vital role in the state’s economic growth and quality of life.

In the TRIP report, TRIP looks at the top transportation numbers in Montana as the state addresses modernizing and maintaining its system of roads, highways, bridges and transit.


Sources of information for this report include the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

To review the complete report visit:  www.tripnet.org

New TRIP Report Identifies Top Transportation Improvements Needed To Support Alabama’s Economic Growth, Including Projects To Address Deteriorated And Congested Roadways, Deficient Bridges, Needed Safety Improvements

image001A new report identifies Alabama’s 50 most needed transportation improvements to address deficient, crowded or congested roads, highways and bridges throughout the state. The deteriorated and congested conditions threaten to stifle economic growth and development in Alabama, according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.

The report, “The Top 50 Highway Projects to Support Economic Growth and Quality of Life in Alabama,” identifies the transportation improvements most needed to support economic growth and quality of life in Alabama. These improvements include projects to build, expand or modernize the state’s network of highways and bridges. Making needed transportation improvements would enhance economic development opportunities throughout the state by increasing mobility and freight movement, easing congestion, improving safety, and making Alabama an attractive place to live, visit and do business. A lack of adequate transportation funding is the constraining factor in developing and delivering these needed improvements.

The 20 most needed transportation improvements to support economic growth in the state, as identified by the TRIP report, are detailed below. Additional information about each project can be found in the report.

 

AL 1 AL 2

The needed highway projects identified in the TRIP report would require an investment of $4.6 billion to complete. The needed projects include 10 widening projects on 63 miles of Alabama’s Interstate highway system. Based on forecast traffic growth, approximately 630 miles of Alabama’s Interstate Highway System are currently or will become congested and will need additional capacity to accommodate economic growth in the state.

“Birmingham serves as a crucial transportation hub in the Southeast, therefore we need to enhance our infrastructure in order to be competitive and protect our future in economic development,” said Brian Hilson, president and CEO of the Birmingham Business Alliance. “The TRIP report outlines road projects that will spark economic growth and ensure public safety.”

According to the TRIP report, 16 percent of Alabama’s major urban roads are in poor condition. Nine percent of bridges are structurally deficient, meaning they have significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. An additional 13 percent of the state’s bridges are functionally obsolete. These bridges no longer meet modern design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.

Alabama’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013 is significantly higher than the national average of 1.09. The fatality rate on Alabama’s rural non-Interstate roads was 2.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013, approximately two-and-a-half times the 0.83 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.

Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long-term these improvements will enhance economic competitiveness and improve quality of life for the state’s residents and visitors by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, improving safety, and stimulating sustained job growth. Sustaining Alabama’s long-term economic growth and maintaining the state’s quality of life will require increased investment in expanding the capacity of the state’s transportation system, which will enhance business productivity and support short- and long-term job creation in the state.

“Investing in Alabama’s transportation system and addressing these challenges by improving the condition and efficiency of the state’s roads and bridges will be an effective step in boosting the state’s economy, enhancing quality of life and making Alabama an attractive place to live, work and visit,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

The Top 50 Highway

Projects to Support Economic Growth and Quality of Life in Alabama

Executive Summary

Alabama’s highway system has played a significant role in the state’s development, providing mobility and access for residents, visitors, businesses and industry. The state’s roads, highways and bridges remain the backbone of the Yellowhammer State’s economy. Alabama’s transportation system also provides for a high quality of life and makes the state a desirable place to live, visit and do business.        Eight years after the nation suffered a significant economic downturn, Alabama’s economy continues to rebound. The rate of economic growth in Alabama, which will be greatly impacted by the reliability and condition of the state’s transportation system, continues to have a significant impact on quality of life in the Yellowhammer State.

To achieve sustainable economic growth, Alabama must proceed with numerous projects to improve key roads, bridges and highways. Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long-term these improvements will boost economic competitiveness and improve quality of life for the state’s residents and visitors by reducing travel delays and transportation costs, improving access and mobility, improving safety, and stimulating sustained job growth.

Many segments of Alabama’s transportation system have significant deterioration, lack some desirable safety features, and do not have adequate capacity to provide the reliable mobility needed to support economic development, creating challenges for Alabama’s residents, visitors, businesses and state and local governments. This report looks at the condition and use of Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges and provides information on the state’s 50 most needed highway improvements to support economic growth and quality of life.

With a wide based economy including agriculture, forestry, manufacturing, natural resource extraction, finance, healthcare, technology, and tourism, the quality of Alabama’s transportation system will play a vital role in the state’s level of economic growth and quality of life.

The federal government is a significant source of transportation funding for Alabama. In December 2015, Congress passed and the president signed into law a long-term federal surface transportation program that includes modest funding increases and allows state and local governments to plan and finance projects with greater certainty through 2020. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) provides approximately $305 billion for surface transportation with highway and transit funding slated to increase by approximately 15 and 18 percent, respectively, over the five-year duration of the program. While the modest funding increase and certainty provided by the FAST Act are a step in the right direction, , the funding falls far short of the level of needed to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs and fails to deliver a sustainable, long-term source of revenue for the federal Highway Trust Fund.

As Alabama works to build and support a thriving and diverse economy, it will need to modernize its highway system by improving the physical condition of its roads, highways and bridges and enhancing the system’s ability to provide efficient, safe and reliable mobility to the state’s residents, visitors and businesses. Making needed improvements to Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges will provide a significant boost to the state’s economy by stimulating short and long-term economic growth.

In this report, TRIP examines recent transportation and economic trends in Alabama and provides information on highway projects in the state that are most needed to support economic growth. Sources of data include the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the U.S. Census Bureau. All data used in the report is the latest available.

TRIP has identified the 50 highway projects that are most needed to support Alabama’s economic growth. These projects are located throughout the state.

  • The most needed highway improvements in Alabama include projects to build, expand or modernize roads, highways and bridges throughout the state. These improvements would enhance economic development opportunities throughout the state by increasing mobility and freight movement, easing congestion, and making Alabama an attractive place to live, visit and do business.
  • TRIP evaluated each project based on the following criteria: short-term economic benefits, including job creation; the level of improvement in the condition of the transportation facility, including safety improvements; the degree of improvement in access and mobility; and the long-term improvement provided in regional or state economic performance and competitiveness.
  • The needed highway projects identified in the TRIP report would require an investment of $4.6 billion to complete.
  • The needed improvements identified in this report include 10 widening projects on 63 miles of Alabama’s Interstate highway system. Based on forecast traffic growth, approximately 630 miles of Alabama’s Interstate Highway System are currently or will become congested and will need additional capacity to accommodate economic growth in the state.
  • Alabama’s 20 most needed highway projects to support economic development in the state as determined by TRIP follow. Additional details for these and all 50 projects can be found in the report’s Appendix.
  1. Adding lanes to a portion of I-65 in Shelby County. This $54 million project would add lanes to 3.5 miles of I-65 from US 31 to CR-52. This suburban commuter route experiences frequent congestion, traffic delays and resulting safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  2. Capacity improvements on I-10 from downtown Mobile across the Mobile Bay. This $850 million project would expand the capacity of 1.5 miles of I-10 in Mobile from Texas Street to the Eastern Shore. I-10 is a critical freight route carrying large volumes from Gulf of Mexico ports across the nation. Traffic is currently constricted by a four-lane tunnel, causing delays, frequent congestion and safety concerns. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  3. Expand capacity of I-59 in Birmingham. Improvements are needed to expand capacity and enhance mobility on 8.5 miles of I-59 in Birmingham from 1st Avenue North to Chalkville Road. This urban interstate route is experiencing growth and frequent congestion, delays and safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  4. Widening US 98 to four lanes from the Mississippi State Line to Mobile. This $36 million project would widen 12 miles of US 98 to four lanes from the Mississippi state line to Mobile. This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane roads in the state. Crashes occur at a high frequency and commuters experience daily delays during peak travel periods. Widening will ease congestion, reduce delays, improve safety and enhance the economic potential for the route.
  5. Expand capacity on a portion of I-59 in Birmingham. Improvements are needed to expand capacity and enhance mobility on 10 miles of I-59 in Birmingham from I-459 to Valley Road. This route is experiencing growth and congestion. Traffic delays and safety concerns are increasing. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  6. Adding lanes to US 231 in Dothan. This $32 million project would add lanes to nearly three miles of US 231 (Ross Clark Circle) in Dothan. This route is experiencing growth, frequent congestion, travel delays and safety issues. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  7. Widening US-11 in Tuscaloosa. This $7 million project would widen US-11 (McFarland Boulevard) to four lanes from CR-27 to 36th This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Widening to four lanes will ease congestion and reduce travel delays. The four-laning will enhance the economic potential for the route and provide better access to Stillman College.
  8. Widening SR 133 in Shoals. This $44 million project would widen four miles of SR 133 from SR 20 to SR 184 from two lanes to four lanes. This corridor is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  9. Widening SR 14 in Montgomery. This $4 million project would widen SR 14 from the end of the current four-lane segment in Millbrook to SR 143. This section is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  10. Adding lanes to a portion of I-65 in Birmingham. This $86 million project would add lanes to 4.5 miles of I-65 in Birmingham, from CR 87 to US 31. This suburban route is experiencing growth and frequent congestion. Traffic delays are increasing and safety is a concern. Added capacity will facilitate the continued growth in the area, improve mobility, reduce congestion and enhance safety. This route carries a large amount of commuter traffic, serving workers who live in the Shelby County suburbs and commute to downtown Birmingham.
  11. Widening SR 119 from I-65 to US 280 in Birmingham. This $80 million project would widen eight miles of SR 119 from two lanes to four lanes from I-65 to US 280. This corridor is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state, causing delays at peak hours. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  12. New Freeway Bypass around Montgomery. This $91 million project would construct a new freeway bypass around Montgomery, from Vaughn Road to US 231. A new bypass will add capacity to the transportation network and improve mobility in the area. A new route will open new areas for economic development and better serve existing industry.
  13. Adding lanes to I-10 from the Mississippi State Line to Mobile. This $146 million project would add lanes to 15 miles of I-10 from the Mississippi State Line to Carol Plantation Road in Mobile. This interstate route carries very high traffic volumes and experiences frequent congestion and travel delays. I-10 is the southernmost interstate route from California to Florida. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  14. Adding lanes to I-10 in Eastern Shore. This $48 million project would add lanes to I-10 from US 98 at the Mobile Bay to SR 181. This interstate route carries commuter traffic between Mobile and Baldwin County, which is experiencing high residential growth, generating high volumes of travel to jobs in Mobile. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  15. Construct a four-lane route along US 82. This $110 million project would provide a 20 mile, four-lane route along US 82 from Reform to the Tuscaloosa County Line. Currently, a four-lane connection to the interstate from the populated areas of the county does not exist. A four lane interstate connector will improve mobility and enhance the economic potential of the county.
  16. Widening SR 69 in Cullman County. This $40 million project would widen 1.1 miles of SR 69 to four lanes from 4th Avenue to Cottage Hill Drive. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  17. Widening SR 150 in Birmingham. This $7 million project would widen 0.8 miles of SR 150 from Lakeshore Parkway to Readers Gap Road. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  18. Widening SR 77 in Gadsden. This $14 million project would widen 1.3 miles of SR 77 from Enterprise Road to SR 11. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  19. Widening US 90 in Mobile. This $22 million project would widen 3.6 miles of US 90 to four lanes from CR 39 to Swedetown Road. Widening US 90 will extend the existing four lane section to the west of Mobile. This section of roadway is one of the highest volume two lane roads in the state and experiences a high rate of crashes. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Added capacity will facilitate continued growth in the area, improve access to the interstate, enhance mobility and reduce traffic delays while enhancing safety.
  20. Widening US 411 in Birmingham. This $12 million project would widen US 411 to four lanes from Bankhead National Parkway to Cedar Grove Road in Birmingham. This section of road is one of the highest volume two-lane routes in the state. Commuters experience daily delays during peak periods. Widening will ease congestion, reduce delays, enhance safety and allow for economic growth.

Transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system.

  • Improved business competitiveness due to reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.
  • Improvements in household welfare resulting from better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.
  • Gains in local, regional and state economies due to improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.
  • Increased leisure/tourism and business travel resulting from the enhanced condition and reliability of a region’s transportation system.
  • A reduction in economic losses from vehicle crashes, traffic congestion and vehicle maintenance costs associated with driving on deficient roads.
  • Transportation projects that expand roadway or bridge capacity produce significant economic benefits by reducing congestion and improving access, thus speeding the flow of people and goods while reducing fuel consumption.
  • Transportation projects that maintain and preserve existing transportation infrastructure also provide significant economic benefits by improving travel speeds, capacity, load-carry abilities and safety, and reducing operating costs for people and businesses. Such projects also extend the service life of a road, bridge or transit vehicle or facility, which saves money by either postponing or eliminating the need for more expensive future repairs.
  • Highway accessibility was ranked the number two site selection factor behind only the availability of skilled labor in a 2013 survey of corporate executives by Area Development Magazine.
  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

Growth in population and vehicle travel has far outstripped the current capacity of Alabama’s transportation system. The state’s population and economy will continue to grow, bringing mounting challenges for the existing network of roads and bridges.

  • From 1990 to 2014, Alabama’s population increased by 20 percent, from approximately four million residents to approximately 4.8 million.
  • From 1990 to 2013, annual vehicle-miles-of-travel (VMT) in the state increased by 54 percent, from approximately 42.3 billion VMT to 65 billion VMT. Based on travel and population trends, TRIP estimates that vehicle travel in Alabama will increase another 35 percent by 2030.
  • Vehicle miles of travel in Alabama for the first ten months of 2015 were 3.4 percent higher than the first ten months of 2014. During the first ten months of 2015, U.S. vehicle miles of travel were 3.4 percent higher than the first ten months of 2014.
  • Every year, $183 billion in goods are shipped from sites in Alabama and another $189 billion in goods are shipped to sites in Alabama, mostly by trucks. Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Alabama are carried by trucks and another 15 percent are carried by parcel, U.S. Postal Service or courier services, which use trucks for part of their deliveries.

Alabama’s extensive transportation system has some road and bridge deficiencies, lacks some desirable safety features and experiences congestion in key areas. Improvements to the condition and efficiency of the state’s transportation system would enhance quality of life, roadway safety and economic development.

  • In 2013, 16 percent of Alabama’s major urban roads were in poor condition, 33 percent were in mediocre or fair condition, and 51 percent were in good condition. Six percent of Alabama’s rural roads were rated in poor condition in 2013, while 31 percent were rated in mediocre or fair condition and 63 percent were rated in good condition.
  • Nine percent of Alabama’s bridges were rated structurally deficient in 2014. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
  • In 2014, 13 percent of Alabama’s bridges were rated as functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards or are inadequate to accommodate current traffic levels, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • Several factors are associated with vehicle crashes that result in fatalities, including driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. TRIP estimates that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes. A total of 4,293 people died on Alabama’s highways from 2010 through 2014, an average of 859 annually.
  • Alabama’s overall traffic fatality rate of 1.31 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013 is significantly higher than the national average of 1.09.
  • The fatality rate on Alabama’s rural non-Interstate roads was 2.11 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013, approximately two-and-a-half times the 0.83 fatality rate on all other roads and highways in the state.
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements can reduce traffic fatalities and crashes while improving traffic flow to help relieve congestion. Such improvements include removing or shielding obstacles; adding or improving medians; improved lighting; adding rumble strips, wider lanes, wider and paved shoulders; upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes; and better road markings and traffic signals.
  • Investments in rural traffic safety have been found to result in significant reductions in serious traffic crashes. A 2012 report by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) found that improvements completed recently by the Texas Department of Transportation that widened lanes, improved shoulders and made other safety improvements on 1,159 miles of rural state roadways resulted in 133 fewer fatalities on these roads in the first three years after the improvements were completed (as compared to the three years prior).   TTI estimates that the improvements on these roads are likely to save 880 lives over the next 20 years.

According to a 2012 national report, improved access as a result of capacity expansions provides numerous regional economic benefits. Those benefits include higher employment rates, higher land value, additional tax revenue, increased intensity of economic activity, increased land prices and additional construction as a result of the intensified use. 

  • The projects analyzed in the report were completed no later than 2005 and included a wide variety of urban and rural projects, including the expansion or addition of major highways, beltways, connectors, bypasses, bridges, interchanges, industrial access roads, intermodal freight terminals and intermodal passenger terminals.
  • The expanded capacity provided by the projects resulted in improved access, which resulted in reduced travel-related costs, faster and more reliable travel, greater travel speeds, improved reliability, and increased travel volume.
  • The report found that improved transportation access benefits a region by: enhancing the desirability of an area for living, working or recreating, thus increasing its land value; increasing building construction in a region due to increased desirability for homes and businesses; increasing employment as a result of increased private and commercial land use; and increasing tax revenue as a result of increased property taxes, increased employment and increased consumption, which increases sales tax collection.
  • The report found that benefits of a transportation capacity expansion unfolded over several years and that the extent of the benefits were impacted by other factors including: the presence of complimentary infrastructure such as water, sewer and telecommunications; local land use policy; the local economic and business climate; and whether the expanded capacity was integrated with other public investment and development efforts.
  • For every $1 million spent on urban highway or intermodal expansion, the report estimated that an average of 7.2 local, long-term jobs were created at nearby locations as a result of improved access. An additional 4.4 jobs were created outside the local area, including businesses that supplied local businesses or otherwise benefited from the increased regional economic activity.
  • For every $1 million spent on rural highway or intermodal expansion, the report estimated that an average of 2.9 local, long-term jobs were created at nearby locations as a result of improved access. An additional 1.6 jobs were created outside the local area, including businesses that supplied local businesses or otherwise benefited from the increased regional economic activity.
  • The report found that highway and intermodal capacity projects in urban areas created a greater number of long-term jobs than in rural areas, largely due to the more robust economic environment and greater density in urban communities.

Investment in Alabama’s roads, highways and bridges is funded by local, state and federal governments.   The recently approved 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 bill does not include a long-term and sustainable revenue source.

  • From 2009 to 2013, the federal government provided $1.28 for road improvements in Alabama for every dollar the state paid in federal motor fuel fees.
  • According to the 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report, a significant boost in investment in the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems is needed to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs.
  • AASHTO’s report found that annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase 36 percent, from $88 billion to $120 billion, to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs, based on an annual one percent rate of vehicle travel growth. Investment in the nation’s public transit system needs to increase from $17 billion to $43 billion.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that if the national rate of vehicle travel increased by 1.4 percent per year, the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 64 percent to $144 billion. If vehicle travel grows by 1.6 percent annually the needed annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges would need to increase by 77 percent to $156 billion.

Sources of data for this report include the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) and the U.S. Census Bureau. All data used in the report is the latest available

TRIP Report: America’s Rural Roads & Bridges Have Significant Deficiencies & High Fatality Rates; Repairs & Modernization Needed To Improve Conditions, Boost Safety & Support Economic Growth

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 and home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. A new report released today by TRIP 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 rural roads.

TRIP Rural 1America’s rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies. In 2013, 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads were rated in poor condition and another 39 percent were rated in mediocre or fair condition. In 2014, 11 percent of the nation’s rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient and 10 percent were functionally obsolete.

The federal surface transportation program is a critical source of funding for rural roads. However, the current federal surface transportation program is set to expire on May 31, 2015.

“The 61 million people who live in America’s rural heartland deserve a transportation system that is safe, efficient and reliable,” said Kathleen Bower, AAA vice president of public affairs. “It is up to Congress to pass a fully funded, long-term bill to improve our nation’s rural roads before the Highway Trust Fund runs out of money this summer.”

In addition to deteriorated roads and bridges, the TRIP report finds that traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads are disproportionately high, occurring at a rate nearly three times higher than all other roads. In 2013, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.20 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.75 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. Rural traffic fatality rates remain high, despite a substantial decrease in the number of overall fatalities.

“America’s rural transportation network plays a key role in the success and quality of life for U.S. farmers and ranchers,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “But deteriorated and deficient rural roads and bridges are hindering our nation’s agricultural goods from reaching markets at home and abroad and slowing the pace of economic growth in rural America. 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, improve quality of life and quicken the pace of economic growth.”

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 rural 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 growing production of energy, food and fiber. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts.

TRIP Rural Roads-Final“America’s rural transportation system enables the farm to market supply chain, supports our tourism and energy industries, and allows for the production of the goods and services that are vital to our nation’s economic health and growth,” said Janet Kavinoky, executive director of Transportation and Infrastructure at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “But years of inadequate transportation funding have left a deficient rural transportation network that does not meet present-day demands. Improving the transportation system will create jobs today and leave a lasting asset for future generations.”

The TRIP report finds that the U.S. needs to adopt transportation policies 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. To accomplish this, the report recommends modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, implementing needed roadway safety improvements, improving public transit access to rural areas, and adequately funding the preservation and maintenance of rural transportation assets.

“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 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.  “But, with long-term federal transportation legislation stuck in political gridlock in Washington, economic growth in America’s rural communities could be threatened.  Funding the modernization of our rural transportation system will create jobs and help ensure long-term economic development and quality of life in rural America.”

Rural Connections:

Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland

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 the 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 economy of rural America rides on the quality and connectivity of the rural transportation system, which supports quality of life for the approximately 61 million Americans living in rural areas.

Good transportation is essential to 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 are not adequate to accommodate growing freight travel in many corridors. Rural roads and bridges have significant deficiencies, 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, which allows states to either 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.

An aging and increasingly diverse rural America plays a vital role as home to a significant share of the nation’s population, natural resources and tourist destinations. It is also the primary source of the energy, food and fiber that drive the U.S. economy. Rural Americans are more reliant on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts.

  • While there are many ways to define rural, 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 61 million of the nation’s 314 million people in 2014.
  • America’s rural population increased gradually each year from 1976 to 2010, rising between 0.1 and 1.5 percent each year. From 2010 to 2014, the nation’s rural population declined slightly as rural areas continued to be impacted by the Great Recession.
  • While overall rural populations declined slightly between 2010 and 2014, population did increase in some rural areas from 2010 to 2014. This population increase occurred primarily in rural counties that have been impacted by the ongoing energy boom, particularly in the Northern Great Plains as well as portions of Arkansas, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas.
  • 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 more urban areas. Residents of rural areas often must travel longer distances to access education, employment, retail locations, social opportunities and health services.
  • The rural U.S. population is aging more rapidly than the nation as a whole. The share of older adults in rural areas is disproportionate, with 17.2 percent of those living in rural areas over age 65, while 12.8 percent of residents in urban areas and 13 percent of the nation’s total population are over 65.
  • Rural areas are growing increasingly more diverse. Although racial and ethnic minorities make up only 21 percent of the rural population, minorities accounted for nearly 83 percent of rural population growth between 2000 and 2010.
  • 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.
  • Popular tourism 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.
  • The amount of rural tourism in a region is tied partly to the level of highway access.

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.

  • Freight mobility and efficiency is fundamental to rural economic vitality and prosperity. Economic growth and stability in rural areas is heavily reliant on the ability to move raw materials into, or the value-added products out of, these areas.
  • The annual value of agricultural production in the U.S. increased by 33 percent from $297 billion in 2007 to $395 billion in 2012.
  • 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.
  • Despite pockets of rapid economic growth, many rural areas have experienced a slower recovery from the Great Recession. Rural employment remains three percent below its 2007 peak, while urban employment now exceeds pre-recession levels.
  • 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 46 percent of total ton miles of travel compared to 36 percent by rail and 12 percent by barge.
  • Trucks account for the vast majority of transportation for perishable agricultural items, carrying 91 percent of ton miles of all fruit, vegetables, livestock, meat, poultry and dairy products in the U.S.
  • The Council of State Governments recently 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.”
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

  • In 2013, travel and tourism related spending in the U.S. in 2013 totaled $1.5 trillion and 8.1 million Americans were employed in tourism-related jobs.
  • America’s national parks, which are largely located in rural areas, received 274 million visitors in 2013, many in personal vehicles.

Travel loads on America’s rural roads are increasing dramatically due 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, as well as the increased production of renewable energy such as wind and solar.

  •  Rapid growth in energy extraction has led to significant population and job growth in select rural areas, particularly in areas that were previously sparsely populated. Between 2001 and 2011, oil and gas extraction was a substantial contributor to 444 rural counties. In 114 of these rural counties, oil and gas extraction at least doubled from 2001 to 2011.
  • Ethanol production in the U.S. increased from 1.7 billion gallons in 2000 to 13.3 billion gallons in 2012. Federal mandates require that production of renewable fuels, including biofuels and cellulosic fuels, reach 36 billion gallons per year by 2022.
  • The U.S. production of liquid fuels, including crude oil and natural gas, has increased 34 percent from 2000 to 2014, increasing liquid fuel’s share of overall U.S. energy production, from 47 to 54 percent between 2000 and 2014 (includes coal and nuclear).
  • The U.S. production of renewable energy, including wind and solar, has increased 48 percent from 2000 to 2014, increasing renewable energy’s share of overall U.S. energy production from 8.3 to 10.6 percent from 2000 to 2014 (includes coal and nuclear).
  • The development of significant new oil and gas fields in numerous areas, particularly in the North Central Plains, and increased agricultural production, are placing significantly 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 major, non-Interstate arterial rural roads in the U.S. increased by 13 percent from 2000 to 2013.

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. This lack of connectivity is preventing economic growth and reducing quality of life for rural residents.

  • Sixty-six cities of 50,000 or more in the U.S. do not have direct access to the Interstate Highway System. A list of the 66 cities can be found in Appendix A.
  • Rural transportation accessibility and connectivity is 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 inputs 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 318 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.
  • 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.

Rural Transportation Challenge: Safety

Traffic fatalities on the nation’s rural roads occur at a rate nearly three times higher than all other roads. A disproportionate share of fatalities take place on rural roads compared to the amount of traffic they carry.

  • Rural roads have a traffic fatality rate that is nearly three times higher than all other roads. In 2013, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.20 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.75 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.
  • Crashes on the nation’s rural, non-Interstate routes resulted in 15,601 fatalities in 2013, accounting for nearly half – 48 percent – of the nation’s 32,719 traffic deaths in 2013.
  • Rural, non-Interstate routes accounted for 24 percent of all vehicle miles of travel in the U.S. in 2013.
  • While overall fatality rates have decreased in recent years, the fatality rate on rural, non-Interstate roads has declined at a slower rate. From 2005 to 2013, the fatality rate on rural, non-Interstate routes declined by 16 percent, from 2.61 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2005 to 2.20 in 2013. The fatality rate on all other roads decreased 29 percent from 2005 to 2013, from 1.05 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel to 0.75.
  • After years of steadily decreasing, the rate of fatalities and the number of fatalities on rural non-Interstate roads increased in 2012 before dropping slightly in 2013. The rate of traffic fatalities on the nation’s rural non-Interstate roads decreased from 2.61 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2005 to 2.14 in 2011 before increasing to 2.21 in 2012 and 2.20 in 2013. Similarly the number of traffic fatalities on the nation’s rural non-Interstate roads decreased from 20,333 in 2005 to 15,668 in 2011 before increasing to 16,161 in 2012 and dropping to 15,601 in 2013.
  • The chart below details the twenty states that led the nation in the number of rural non-Interstate traffic deaths in 2013. Data for all states is available in Appendix B.

TRIP 2The chart below details the twenty states with the highest rate of rural non-Interstate traffic fatalities per 100 million miles of travel and the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads in the state in 2013. Data for all states is available in Appendix C.

 

TRIP 3The higher traffic fatality rate found on rural, non-Interstate routes is a result of multiple factors, including the following: 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 urban non-freeway arterial roads have two-lanes, compared to 56 percent of rural non-freeway arterial routes having two-lanes.
  • 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.       However, 23 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 with lane widths of 10 feet or less.
  • 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. 

Numerous 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.

  • The type of safety design improvements that are appropriate for a section of rural road will depend partly on the amount of funding available and the nature of the safety problem on that section of road.
  • 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, 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 Challenge: Deficient Conditions

The nation’s rural roads, highways and bridges have significant deficiencies. Fifteen percent of the nation’s rural roads have pavements in poor condition, and more than one-fifth of the nation’s rural bridges need rehabilitation, repair or replacement.

  • 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 chart below shows the twenty states with the greatest percentage of major rural roads in poor condition in 2013. Rural pavement conditions for all states can be found in Appendix D.

TRIP 4

  • In 2014, 11 percent of the nation’s rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient. A bridge is structurally deficient if there is significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components. Structurally deficient bridges are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic, restricting or redirecting large vehicles, including commercial trucks, school buses and emergency services vehicles.
  • In 2014, 10 percent of the nation’s rural bridges were rated as functionally obsolete. Bridges that are functionally obsolete no longer meet current highway design standards, often because of narrow lanes, inadequate clearances or poor alignment.
  • The chart below shows the twenty states with the highest share of rural bridges rated structurally deficient in 2014. Rural bridge conditions for all states can be found in Appendix E.

TRIP 5

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 quality of life and enhance economic productivity. The following recommendations by TRIP for an improved rural transportation system are also 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.
  • The 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 insure 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.

The federal government is a critical source of funding for rural roads, highways and bridges. However, current federal transportation funding will expire on May 31, 2015. 

  • If Congress decides to provide additional revenues into the federal Highway Trust Fund in tandem with authorizing a new federal surface transportation program, a number of technically feasible revenue options have been identified by AASHTO.
  • A significant boost in investment on the nation’s roads, highways, bridges and public transit systems is needed to improve their condition and to meet the nation’s transportation needs, concluded a new report from AASHTO.
  • The 2015 AASHTO Transportation Bottom Line Report found that annual investment in the nation’s roads, highways and bridges needs to increase from $88 billion to $120 billion and from $17 billion to $43 billion in the nation’s public transit systems, to improve conditions and meet the nation’s mobility needs.

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.