Meeting the Transportation Needs of Rural America
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
Summary of Subject Matter
Subcommittee on Highways and Transit
Hearing on “Meeting the Transportation Needs of Rural America”
(Remarks as Prepared)
Rural roads are rarely in the spotlight. They generally don’t command our attention because they don’t suffer from the severe congestion we see in our cities and suburbs, and they are not often in the limelight for flashy ribbon-cuttings.
But rural roads and bridges are what knit our highways together into an interconnected, national system. They make it possible for freight to move seamlessly throughout the country and for tourists to enjoy road trips at low cost, and they allow other motorists to travel conveniently for short trips or long distances.
Even today, 71 percent of all lane-miles of public roads and 73 percent of all of the Nation's bridges are located in rural areas. In my home state of Missouri, the role of rural roads is even more pronounced: 82 percent of the public roads and 81 percent of bridges are in rural areas, and these roads carry over 40 percent of all travel in the state.
Missouri farmers and ranchers depend on these roads to get their products to market domestically and internationally. Rural or local roads often provide the critical “last mile” connection to rail facilities, our inland waterways, and our ports. And they provide the infrastructure for the only form of public transportation most rural communities have – local or intercity bus service.
I think our rural roads and bridges demonstrate why we need a strong federal highway program. A network of efficient, interconnected roads is critical to moving people and goods.
Also, and importantly, rural states tend to be more dependent on the federal highway program because many rural roads are lightly traveled or are used predominately by cars and trucks merely passing through the state. Without the federal program, rural states would not fund highway and bridge projects that are important to the Nation, but which are not a state or local priority.
Finally, safety is a significant problem on rural roads, where over half of all fatalities occur. I fully support MAP-21’s trigger for higher investments on rural roads if the fatality rate increases two years in a row.
I continue to work with Chairman Shuster on achieving a long-term surface transportation reauthorization bill that will provide reliable funding for our states. I know the Chairman is talking to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. While we will need to pass another short-term extension by the end of July, I am hopeful that we will be able to pass a long-term bill later this year. In the meantime, this Committee continues to work on a bipartisan basis on the policy provisions for the reauthorization bill.
State and local governments are depending on us to remain a strong partner in delivering transportation projects, and providing funding certainty for the first time in a decade.
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