The U.S. Department of Transportation issued a Request for Information or RFI on December 19 to receive feedback from the general public and industry stakeholders to help shape its Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success or ROUTES Initiative – an effort officially launched by USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao during a speech at the 2019 annual meeting of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in October.
The agency said in a statement its RFI seeks input on concerns with rural infrastructure safety, condition, and usage, as well as stakeholders’ experiences using USDOT discretionary grant and finance programs.
“In addition to the data and experience DOT already has, the ROUTES Council will review and use public input to guide the evaluation of rural projects and improve funding options,” noted Joel Szabat, acting USDOT undersecretary for policy, who is leading the department’s ROUTES Council, which had its first meeting in November.
Chao noted in her October speech that the ROUTES Initiative aims to provide more “fairness and equity” in the distribution of federal transportation funds due to specific needs in rural communities.
For example, she pointed out that while 19 percent of the nation’s population lives in rural areas, 46 percent of the nation’s highway fatalities occur on rural roads, with the overall motor vehicle fatality rate on rural roads is twice that of urban roads.
Additionally, nearly half of all truck vehicle miles traveled occur on rural roads, with two-thirds of rail freight originating in rural areas, Chao added.