U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao announced a major initiative to support transportation needs in the rural parts of the United States.
The Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success initiative, also known as ROUTES, will analyze the Transportation Department’s discretionary funding and financing opportunities to benefit rural communities’ transportation infrastructure across the country.
Chao made the announcement during a keynote address at the annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) in St. Louis.
“Rural America, which has a disproportionately high rate of fatalities and is historically neglected, needs to have its transportation needs addressed,” she told the gathering.
Chao said leaders and staff in key infrastructure modes – Highways, Aviation, Transit, and Railroads – will be brought together to examine grant programs’ potential to better support the Nation’s critical rural transportation infrastructure.
Rural communities and their transportation networks have been instrumental in building and supplying urban areas.70 percent of the country’s road miles are in rural areas.
While one-fifth of Americans live in rural areas, rural America’s traffic fatalities are disproportionately high, representing 46 percent of total deaths in 2018.
The new ROUTES Initiative will address these challenges by assisting rural stakeholders in understanding how to access DOT grants and financing products, and developing data-driven approaches to better assess needs and benefits of rural transportation projects, the Department said in a press release.
Chao also announced the formation of a rural transportation infrastructure council to lead the way on this initiative.
The Council will initially review public comments and create a rural resources handbook.
The first meeting of the Council will be held in November.
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