According to USDA, trucking carries 70 percent of agricultural and food products and represents 30 percent of all ton-miles moved on U.S. transportation systems. As rural road and bridge conditions decline, further funding is necessary to ensure rural populations can efficiently transport the farm and ranch goods we all rely on while supporting their families and maintaining their quality of life.
This Market Intel focuses on current rural road conditions and where federal funding levels are, as lawmakers will be tasked with the challenge of designating funding for such a vital part of our economy.
Rural roads, highways, and bridges lack the capacity to accommodate growing freight travel and fail in providing adequate levels of connectivity to many communities.
According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, 15 percent of U.S. roads are in poor condition and 21 percent in mediocre condition. Bridges in poor or structurally deficient condition represent 9 percent of all rural bridges in the U.S. and are often restricted to lower weight vehicles or even off-limits completely, therefore closing off access to large vehicles and agricultural equipment.
Funding Always the Issue
According to CBO’s May 2019 baseline report and continued trends, the Highway Trust Fund’s highway account alone will fall short by $10 billion in 2022, and that shortfall will climb to $124 billion by 2029, Figure 2. With the additional funds obligated under the America’s Transportation Infrastructure Act of 2019, a far more drastic budget shortfall is on the horizon without a substantial increase to HTF revenues.
American Farm Bureau voting delegates realize that while it may be politically unpopular, increasing HTF fees in order to accommodate increases in fuel economy, electric vehicles and inflation may be part of a solution. Additional revenue raised from the increased excise tax should be directed specifically to the Highway Account of the HTF for the construction and maintenance of roads and bridges.
Rural roads and bridges are a vital part of our nation’s transportation system and economy. Rural surface transportation networks face substantial challenges and deterioration, however, the investment in safe efficient, and well-maintained roads and bridges in rural America will have lasting effects on the overall health of the American economy.