It’s no secret that freight movement is the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, which makes investments in infrastructure imperative to economic health and success. Towards this goal, the U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $273.9M to 12 projects with the mission of improving safety and freight movement on rural roadways in several states.
On Dec. 21, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced an investment of $2 billion over the next six years as part of a new initiative sponsored by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to benefit rural infrastructure projects across America. These grants will target highway safety upgrades, increased access to businesses such as energy and freight facilities and more up-to-date agricultural infrastructures, all in efforts to drive economic growth for local communities throughout the nation.
“Infrastructure investments haven’t always reached rural America, leaving far too many roads, bridges and other parts of the transportation system across our country in disrepair,” Buttigieg said, stressing that President Joe Biden’s administration is “delivering the investments that rural communities have gone without for far too long, modernizing transportation, creating economic opportunity and making life better for millions of people.”
As competition for rural development funds heats up, the U.S Department of Transportation received a record-breaking $10 billion in funding proposals – far exceeding its 2022 budget of nearly three hundred million dollars. In the end, only twelve projects from across nine states – including two tribal areas and one Native Alaskan village – were chosen to receive this much sought-after investment into their communities’ infrastructural capabilities.
Niagara County, New York was awarded the largest grant at $959 million to bring the Hartland Road Bridge up to modern safety and design standards. The bridge was constructed over 70 years ago and hasn’t had any major rehabilitation work done in over 30 years. The project is estimated to cost a whopping $1.2 billion dollars; however, the updates will bolster agriculture freight movement upon completion.
Snyder County, Pennsylvania is set to benefit from a $69 million grant in support of improved road infrastructure and the separation of freight traffic. The project is estimated to cost $416 million total and is designed to eliminate delays with the construction of 6.1 miles of highway between U.S. Routes 11 and 15, featuring an interchange with PA Route 61 for further convenience.
Virginia is leading the way to reduce truck traffic with a major commitment of $25 million in grant money toward the widening of Interstate 64. The extra lanes are expected to enhance safety by improving spacing between heavy vehicles traveling the corridor where 70% of crashes are related to vehicle roadway departures. The project, driven by Virginia’s Department of Transportation with an estimated total cost of $300 million, looks forward to additional investments sure to benefit highway travelers for years to come.
West Virginia has received an investment of $25 million in grant funding to aid the construction of an additional 15-mile stretch of the Coalfields Expressway. The goal is to improve safety by adding shoulders, median strips and flattening curves on this winding mountainous terrain between I-64/I-77 (West Virginia Turnpike) and U.S Route 23 in Slate, VA – part of a project that totals over half a billion dollars. Upon completion, the improvements are expected to result in more efficient travel and save more than 8,000 travel hours annually.
California is also receiving a $25 million grant to transform four miles of the Madera 41 South Expressway from its current two-lane rural road into an expansive and modernized four-lane limited access expressway. The full project carries a price tag of $94 million but will bring with it improved travel lanes and widened road shoulders to meet state freeway standards. Not only that; this upgrade stands to enhance freight movement as well boost tourism by providing bystanders easier access to Yosemite National Park nearby.
In South Dakota, The Rosebud Sioux Tribe, one of the most economically disadvantaged reservations in America, is set to receive a $26.2 million grant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Route 7 Regional Improvement Project. This project will reconstruct and resurface 24 miles along U.S Routes 18 and 83 for enhanced safety features that are integral to promoting freight movements as well alleviating some risks associated with traffic fatalities among tribal communities across the United States, which tend to be disproportionately high compared to national averages.