Narrow bridges

Maine’s rural roads and bridges among worst in US

Maine’s rural roads and bridges are among the most deteriorated in the country, with a significant backlog of needed repairs and improvements.

A new report released Thursday by TRIP, a national transportation research organization in Washington, DC, found that 15% of rural bridges in Maine are in poor condition and structurally deficient, the sixth highest rate in the nation.

One in five rural roads in Maine are rated in poor condition — the 10th highest rate in the nation — and 23% are in poor condition.

“In Maine, rural communities are the backbone of our state,” Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said in a press release. “The fact that 20% of rural roads are in poor condition disadvantages our communities, as well as the many businesses and our citizens who depend on getting products to their customers.”

He added: “The longer we wait to secure our roads, bridges, railways or any infrastructure, the more it will cost.

Neglected infrastructure

Bridges rated as poor and structurally deficient exhibit significant deterioration of major bridge components and are often posted for lower weight or closed to traffic. Large vehicles, including farm equipment, commercial trucks, school buses and emergency service vehicles, are often restricted or redirected.

On rural non-interstate highways in Maine, the road fatality rate is more than double the fatality rate on all other highways in the state – 1.67 per 100 million vehicle miles traveled versus 0, 71. There were 123 fatalities on rural non-interstate roads in Maine in 2020.

Rural roads are more likely to have narrow lanes, limited shoulders, sharp curves, exposed hazards, pavement setbacks, steep grades, and limited open areas along the roads.

Neglecting infrastructure has consequences for the economy and the safety of motorists, noted Patrick Moody of AAA Northern New England.

“Last year, 42,915 people died in car crashes in the United States,” Moody said. “We know that the vast majority of accidents are due to human error, but poor roads and bridges add to the challenge of driving safely on our rural roads.”

National order book

The report, “Rural Connections: Examining the Safety, Connectivity, Condition and Funding Needs of America’s Rural Roads & Bridges,” concludes that the U.S. rural transportation system needs immediate improvements to address deficient roads and bridges, to high accident rates and inadequate connectivity. and capacity.

In total, the United States faces a $180 billion funding backlog for needed repairs and improvements to the rural transportation system.

The rural transport system is the first and last link in the supply chain from farm to market, connects manufacturers to their customers, supports the tourism industry and enables the production of energy, food and fiber . Rural residents are more dependent on the quality of their transportation system than their urban counterparts, with vehicle trips in rural communities being on average about 50% higher than in urban communities.

To read the full report, click here.