America's rural transportation system is in need of repairs and modernization, in order to support economic growth and development. Rural America is home to an aging and increasingly diverse population that is heavily reliant on the quality of its transportation system. According to a new report released today by TRIP, the state of Maine ranks high on the list of roads in desperate need of repair.
TRIP is a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C. The report, Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America's Heartland, evaluates the safety and condition of the nation's rural roads and bridges.
The report finds that rural roads and bridges in Maine have significant deficiencies. Nineteen percent of Maine's rural roads are rated in poor condition - the 15th highest rate in the nation - and 20 percent are rated in mediocre condition. Fifteen percent of Maine's rural bridges are rated as structurally deficient, the 10th highest rate in the nation. The rate of traffic fatalities on Maine's non-Interstate, rural roads - 1.51 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel - is more than triple the fatality rate on all other roads in the state.
"Rural roads are far too often overlooked. With fatalities rising, repairing and maintaining the nation's roads must be a top priority for legislators," said Pat Moody, manager of public affairs AAA Northern New England. "By investing in improvements for today and tomorrow, we can deliver safer experiences for motorists and save tens of thousands of lives."
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, something that is very important for the farming economy of Northern Maine.
"At the height of the summer harvest, up to 120 tractor-trailer loads a week are leaving Aroostook County on Interstate 95," said Emily Smith, president of Smith's Farm Inc. "During the growing season, large farm equipment and trucks with significant load are navigating rural roads and bridges to grow and harvest a perishable commodity. Time, speed, and safety are vital factors to the success of our agricultural business."
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 quality of life and enhance economic productivity.
"The nation's 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. "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."