A report and set of infographics released by The Road Information Program (TRIP) July 10 finds that rural roads are in need of modernization and maintenance in order to provide necessary access to rural areas.

The report, “Rural Connections:  Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland,” found that Rural America (as defined by counties that have populations of 50,000 or less) contains 15 percent of the U.S. population, approximately 46 million people.  Additional findings of the report include:

  • 66 cities in rural America lack direct access to the Interstate Highway System;
  • Over 100,000 miles of rail line has been abandoned, creating a greater dependency by rural areas on trucking for freight interchange; and
  • 60 percent of rural counties have public transportation, with very limited service available in 28 percent of those counties.

The report also discusses the challenges in transportation safety that rural areas encounter:

  • Traffic fatalities on rural roads are nearly three times higher than all other roads;
  • In 2012, non-Interstate rural roads made up 25 percent of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) within the United States, while crashes on these roads accounted for 48 percent (16,161 fatalities) of the country’s 33,561 traffic fatalities;
  • In the same year, the rate of traffic fatalities on non-Interstate rural roads increased by 0.07 to 2.21 deaths per 100 million VMT, in comparison to 0.78 deaths per 100 million on all other roads;
  • Rural roads are more likely to have inconsistent design features, attributes that affect safety, narrower design, and to be two lanes;
  • 15 percent of major rural roads were considered to be in poor condition in 2012, with 40 percent rated in fair condition; and
  • In 2013, 12 percent of rural bridges within the country were considered structurally deficient, and 10 percent were functionally obsolete.

Read the report.