St. Louis, MO (KTRS) There’s a new initiative to address disparities in transportation infrastructure in rural America.
On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao was in St. Louis to deliver a keynote address at the annual American Association of State Highway and Transportation meeting. It was there that Chao announced the Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success initiative, also known as R.O.UT.E.S.
“Rural America, which has a disproportionately high rate of fatalities and is historically neglected, needs to have its transportation needs addressed,” said Chao.
“We will bring together leaders and staff in key infrastructure modes – Highways, Aviation, Transit, and Railroads – to examine grant programs’ potential to better support the Nation’s critical rural transportation infrastructure.” Chao added.
During her speech, Chao cited transportation safety statistics in rural America.
“Rural communities and their transportation networks are vital to our nation. 69 percent of the Nation’s lane miles are in rural areas. Two-thirds of rail freight originates in rural areas. But rural transportation infrastructure is challenged by disparities. The disproportionate rate of crash fatalities in rural areas is especially alarming. 19 percent of Americans live in rural areas. Yet, 72 percent of large truck occupant fatalities, 67 percent of pickup occupant fatalities, and 58 percent of SUV occupant fatalities occur in rural areas. The fatality rate on rural roads is twice that on urban roads.” Chao said to a crowd of transportation officials.
Chao also announced the formation of a rural transportation infrastructure council, the ROUTES Council, to lead the way on this initiative. This new internal deliberative body at the Department will identify critical rural transportation concerns and coordinate efforts among DOT’s different modal administrations. The Council will initially review public comments and create a rural resources handbook, holding its first meeting in November 2019.