Policymakers in Washington ignored key facts about our state when they recently ducked their responsibility to provide long-term, ongoing funding for South Carolina’s and all of America’s highways, bridges and public transit systems. Instead, they passed a bill to provide funding through July and barely pay for the upkeep of those systems; that’s not good enough for South Carolina.
The “Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland” report released by non-profit research group TRIP, AAA, the American Farm Bureau Federation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Travel Association found traffic crashes and fatalities on rural roads in South Carolina are significantly higher than all other roads in the state. In 2013, non-Interstate rural roads in South Carolina had the second highest rate nationally and nearly five times higher than the traffic fatality rate for all other roads in state. The report also found significant deficiencies in our rural bridges. In 2014, 12 percent of our rural bridges were rated as structurally deficient – 19th highest rate in the nation.
The federal surface transportation program – on which Congress punted – is a critical source of funding for rural roads and transportation infrastructure nationwide. The current federal surface transportation program is on life support through late July. According to the stakeholders who released the rural roads report, Congress needs to do much more.
In the view of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which also leads the Americans for Transportation Mobility (ATM) Coalition: “Improving the transportation system will create jobs today and leave a lasting asset for future generations.” And in AAA’s view: “The 61 million people who live in America’s rural heartland deserve a transportation system that is safe, efficient and reliable.”
The quality of life in South Carolina’s and America’s small communities and rural areas and the health of the rural economy is highly reliant on the quality of rural transportation systems – even more than urban areas. The TRIP report made practical recommendations such as the following to help bring our rural communities up to par: modernizing and extending key routes to accommodate personal and commercial travel, improving public transit access to rural areas, and providing adequate funding for rural transportation assets.
It’s time for South Carolinians to tell Congress to take seriously the need to fix our rural roads – and our entire transportation infrastructure. No more delays, no more excuses.
South Carolina Alliance to Fix Our Roads