Highways: Rural Areas Underserved

 The Clarion-Ledger | September 7, 2010

The nation's rural highway system needs significant improvement and Mississippi is an excellent example of why that's true.

A new study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials concludes that more investment is needed in America's rural transportation system to keep agriculture, new energy products and freight moving; improve access for the travel, recreation, and tourism industries; connect new and emerging cities; and to ensure reliable access to key defense installations.

AASHTO, which is led this year by Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Butch Brown, released the report last week in Little Rock entitled "Connecting Rural and Urban America."

According to the report, freight shipped by tractor-trailers is projected to grow rapidly in the coming couple of decades and much of that travel will be on rural roads.

Federal legislation that has given states federal money for highway work is set to expire Dec. 31. AASHTO executive director John Horsley called on Congress to extend the funding at present levels until a new bill can be crafted. Horsley and other speakers, including Brown, said $600 billion is needed.

In remarks accompanying the report, Brown offered two examples of why Mississippi is indicative of the nation's highway needs:

  • "Agriculture in Mississippi is approximately a $6.3 billion dollar industry. There are over 42,000 farms in the state covering 11 million acres or more. An excellent highway transportation network in the rural areas of Mississippi is critical for us to support agriculture and to be able to accelerate the need for better access to markets," Brown said
     
  • "During a hurricane evacuation in Mississippi, a significant number of vehicles have to be moved onto the roadway in a relatively short period of time. Many of these are coming from our coastal areas; others are fleeing from Florida or Alabama," Brown said. "Most of these evacuees are moving to inland counties, creating traffic backups and long travel times. Narrow two-lane rural roads cannot support the demand of travel if not improved to meet the demand. This is a health and safety issue and must be addressed."
     

The report notes that 66 U.S. cities with a population of 50,000 or more do not have direct access to interstate highways and that 60 million people who live in rural America equal the population of the nation's largest 100 cities.

Rural Mississippians know the report's accuracy. They live it, and more importantly drive it, on farm-to-market roads every day.

Rural highway funding should be extended by Congress.


http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20100907/OPINION01/9070315/Highways...

Issues: 

 The Clarion-Ledger | September 7, 2010

The nation's rural highway system needs significant improvement and Mississippi is an excellent example of why that's true.

A new study by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials concludes that more investment is needed in America's rural transportation system to keep agriculture, new energy products and freight moving; improve access for the travel, recreation, and tourism industries; connect new and emerging cities; and to ensure reliable access to key defense installations.

AASHTO, which is led this year by Mississippi Department of Transportation Executive Director Butch Brown, released the report last week in Little Rock entitled "Connecting Rural and Urban America."

According to the report, freight shipped by tractor-trailers is projected to grow rapidly in the coming couple of decades and much of that travel will be on rural roads.

Federal legislation that has given states federal money for highway work is set to expire Dec. 31. AASHTO executive director John Horsley called on Congress to extend the funding at present levels until a new bill can be crafted. Horsley and other speakers, including Brown, said $600 billion is needed.

In remarks accompanying the report, Brown offered two examples of why Mississippi is indicative of the nation's highway needs:

  • "Agriculture in Mississippi is approximately a $6.3 billion dollar industry. There are over 42,000 farms in the state covering 11 million acres or more. An excellent highway transportation network in the rural areas of Mississippi is critical for us to support agriculture and to be able to accelerate the need for better access to markets," Brown said
     
  • "During a hurricane evacuation in Mississippi, a significant number of vehicles have to be moved onto the roadway in a relatively short period of time. Many of these are coming from our coastal areas; others are fleeing from Florida or Alabama," Brown said. "Most of these evacuees are moving to inland counties, creating traffic backups and long travel times. Narrow two-lane rural roads cannot support the demand of travel if not improved to meet the demand. This is a health and safety issue and must be addressed."
     

The report notes that 66 U.S. cities with a population of 50,000 or more do not have direct access to interstate highways and that 60 million people who live in rural America equal the population of the nation's largest 100 cities.

Rural Mississippians know the report's accuracy. They live it, and more importantly drive it, on farm-to-market roads every day.

Rural highway funding should be extended by Congress.


http://www.clarionledger.com/article/20100907/OPINION01/9070315/Highways...