NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Federal Highway Funds

August 17, 2001

You are safer on a crowded urban expressway than a rural two-lane road, government statistics show. One reason may be that rural roads receive less federal money than urban highways, and lack many of their safety features (shoulders, lights, striping and so forth).

According to a new General Accounting Office report:

  • Urban expressways got $80,900 in federal money for each mile of lanes in 1999.
  • Rural local roads, the lowest category of roads, received $100 per mile.
  • In 1999, roads passing communities of at least 5,000 people carried 1.6 trillion vehicle miles of traffic and recorded 15,816 highway deaths at a rate of 0.97 per hundred million miles.
  • Roads farther out in the country had 1.1 trillion vehicle miles of traffic and 25,107 deaths, a rate of 2.36.

Those local rural roads recorded 4,758 deaths, a rate of 3.79 per hundred million vehicle miles traveled, compared with 1,354 deaths along urban freeways, a rate of 0.79 deaths per hundred million miles.

Of course, per mile, the urban freeways carry many times the number of passengers on rural roads. Statistics for all of the nation's streets, roads and highways show the same trend, the GAO reported.

Source: Associated Press, "Citing Fatalities, Officials Want More Funding for Rural Roads," New York Times, August 16, 2001.


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