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Missouri’s rural transportation system not the worst nationwide, report finds

A national transportation research group has released a study on the conditions of rural roads across the U.S., and Missouri did not rank in the 10 worst states — though was still exemplified problems with the infrastructure. 

The Show-Me State was ranked 14th in rural non-interstate traffic deaths, 13th in percentage of rural roads with pavement in poor condition, and 16th in percent of rural bridges rated poor/structurally deficient.

On Wednesday, TRIP, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., released the report titled “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland.”

“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 executive summary stated.

“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,” the report continued. “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.”

The report looked at the condition, use, and safety of the nation’s rural transportation system, particularly its roads, highways and bridges, and identified needed improvements.

The report ranks Missouri 14th in rural non-interstate traffic deaths. In 2017, 422 people died on rural roads in the Show-Me State. But when converted to fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled, the state does not rank within 25 most deaths with 1.6.

Texas (1,294) and California (1,246) had the most total deaths. South Carolina (3.60) and California (3.16) had the most fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles traveled.

In terms of pavement considered to be in poor condition in rural areas, Missouri ranks 13th in percentage of miles. According to the report, 21 percent of Missouri’s rural roads have pavement in poor condition.

Rhode Island (39 percent) and California (32 percent) came in with the highest percentage. Across the nation, an average of 14 percent of rural roads are in poor condition.  

When it comes to bridges, Missouri has 9 percent in rural areas which are considered poor or structurally deficient. The state ranked 16th overall.

Rhode Island (23 percent) and Iowa (21 percent) had the highest percentage of rural bridges in poor condition.

“We have more than $8 billion in high-priority unfunded transportation needs in Missouri. The TRIP report reflects that and also demonstrates how Gov. Parson’s priorities of infrastructure and workforce are right on target,” Missouri Department of Transportation Director Patrick McKenna said. “Given the state’s limited transportation funding, we must focus our attention on keeping the system condition from declining and with current funding that is a tremendous challenge. Some additional funds are included in the Fiscal Year 2020 state budget for bridge improvements, which will be a help, but we still have a long way to go to fix all of the bridges in need of repair and to address our backlog of unfunded needs. We will continue to do our best to keep our roads and bridges in the best condition we can with the resources available to us.”

Read the full report below:

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