Thursday, January 13, 2011

Challenges of completing rural roads

Rural roads make up the majority of roads in the United States—80%, or 3.1 million miles—and they carry 40% of the vehicle miles traveled. They are also the most deadly (.pdf), according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2007, the fatality rate in rural areas (per 100 million vehicle miles traveled) was 2.5 times as high as in urban areas. While most pedestrian and bicycle fatalities happen on urban and suburban roads, the statistics on rural roads are significant: in 2009, 28% of pedestrian and 30% of bicycle fatalities occurred on rural roads.
In part, these fatality rates are attributable to slower emergency response times in areas with long distances between population centers. However, two factors also play an important role: the speed and variety of vehicles using the roads. In rural hamlets, “Main Street” often serves a dual purpose; it is both the quickest road between towns and the center for communal activity, which means people on foot. This is the same recipe underlying dangerous roads across the country, as shown by the national report Dangerous by Design (co-authored by TSTC’s Michelle Ernst and Transportation for America’s Lilly Shoup).

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