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Transportation Officials: Rural Congestion Highlights Funding Need

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Getting away for the long weekend? You might not completely get away from traffic.

Part of the issue: that our population has nearly doubled, as well as shifted significantly, geographically, since the Interstate system was launched in 1956.

According to a new report, you increasingly likely to experience traffic bottlenecks in rural areas, either along major freight routes or on the way to tourist destinations.

At a time when funding is scarce for infrastructure and public services, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) has released a report that points out the need for more attention to rural transportation needs.

Part of the Connecting Rural and Urban America series, the report was released today and presented today in Little Rock and Wichita—with the aim to push for better connectivity and mobility for 60 million Americans living in rural areas, as well as to bolster investment toward the transportation system for agriculture, freight-moving, tourism, and defense.

The AASHTO found that there are 66 cities in the U.S. with populations of 50,000 or more (including a state capital) that don't have access to the Interstate system. It also emphasized that the elderly are especially dependent on rural roads and public transit systems. During the next 40 year, 80 percent of the population growth in the U.S. will be in South or West states.

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The report recommends, in addition to the continued funding of the Interstate system and Federal-aid highways, to double federal investment in rural transit systems (including intercity passenger rail), expand capacity of the Interstates, upgrade more rural roads to Interstate standards, and connect 'newly urbanized' areas to the existing Interstate system.

But while pro-train, the authors oppose too much investment in that system, pointing out that 95 percent of passenger travel and 93 percent of freight by value still moves on the highways—along with 70 percent of our trade with Mexico and Canada.


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