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Business & Economy

Report Finds Rural Roads and Bridges Crumbling

Rural roads and bridges across the country are often unsafe and in need of repair. That's according to a new report by TRIP, a national non-profit research group out of Washington. The report finds traffic deaths are around three times likelier on rural roads than all other roads. 907 people died on rural roads in North Carolina in 2009. That's the third highest total in the country. TRIP Director of Research and Policy Frank Moretti says those deaths can be attributed to a number of factors.

Frank Moretti: "Narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, pavement dropoffs, and oftentimes hazards along roadsides including trees, utility poles, large rocks."

Moretti says states are looking into solutions.

Moretti: "What they're finding is that there's a variety of cost-effective strategies, such as rumble strips, median barriers, wider lanes, paved shoulders, improved shielding of obstacles, better lane markings... all of these things can be very effective at improving traffic safety and reducing the number of serious traffic crashes."

Moretti says meeting those challenges is dependant on adequate funding at the state and local levels. Stephen Sandherr is the Chief Executive Officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. He says elected officials used to understand that one of the best ways to encourage economic growth was to invest in infrastructure, including rural roads.

Stephen Sandherr: "But consensus has given way to contention. And today many members of Congress can't seem to find a way to work out their differences. As a result, our infrastructure, including rural roads and bridges, has suffered as Washington has allowed surface transportation legislation to languish for almost two years."

The report calls for multi-year legislation that sets funding levels so that state and local transportation officials can put their long-term plans in place.

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