Westerman, Finkenauer Introduce Bipartisan Rural Road Safety Act

September 16, 2019
Press Release

Today, U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and U.S. Rep. Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa) introduced the Rural Road Safety Act, which would provide federal funding for communities to make critical safety improvements to their rural roads.

“Whenever I’m driving back in my district, I see the dangers of traveling on rural roads,” Westerman said. “This bipartisan bill will re-implement investments that worked in the past, with the ultimate goal of saving lives. Whether you are using a rural road for commuting, visiting friends or driving to the grocery store, these roads should be safe to drive on. As co-chair of the Road Safety Caucus, I’m glad to cosponsor this legislation with Rep. Finkenauer.”

“The data is clear: we can and must do more to make our rural roads safer for everyone – whether you’re a driver, a state trooper on duty, or working to improve our roads,” Finkenauer said. “Congressman Westerman and I worked on this bill with the goal of saving lives. We looked at what previously worked, and we found that ensuring federal money gets invested into rural roads helped save lives. This bill is a return to what worked.”

Background

The Rural Road Safety Act would ensure states are investing a portion of federal Highway Safety Improvement Program money into their high-risk rural roads by re-establishing a set-aside which existed from 2005 to 2012. After the set-aside was eliminated, rural road fatalities declined at a far slower rate. The bill will also update the 2014 Rural Local and Tribal Roads Safety Toolkit to include new best practices for reducing fatalities on rural roads. This toolkit helps rural communities identify their safety needs and prioritize the safety projects that will work best for them.

Finkenauer and Westerman are both members of the House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure, where Finkenauer serves as vice-chair of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee, and Westerman serves as ranking member on the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee. Westerman is also co-chair of the Road Safety Caucus.

Statements of Support

“On behalf of AARP and its over 38 million members, we would like to thank Congresswoman Finkenauer and Congressman Westerman for their leadership in sponsoring the Rural Road Safety Act. By dedicating funding and other resources for rural roads, the bill will help address the disproportionate number of traffic fatalities among older Americans living in rural communities.” Bill Sweeney, senior vice president for government affairs, AARP

“It is clear more must be done to reduce fatalities on rural roadways. We applaud Congresswoman Finkenauer and Congressman Westerman for introducing legislation that will empower states by restoring funding dedicated to improving safety. Rural communities experience a disproportionate number of traffic deaths compared to the rest of the country, which is why this commonsense legislation is vitally important. Safer rural roads save lives.” – Cathy Chase, president, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

“The American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) commends Reps. Finkenauer and Westerman for highlighting the need to invest in roadway safety infrastructure projects on America’s rural roads. In 2016, more than 18,500 people were killed in rural areas, making the fatality rate on rural roads 2.5 times higher than on urban roads. We must address these roadway safety infrastructure challenges and significantly reduce roadway fatalities in rural America. Their legislation shines the spotlight on the need to do just that. With leadership from members of Congress like Reps. Finkenauer and Westerman, ATSSA members in Iowa, Arkansas, and across the nation can take the necessary steps to help reduce fatalities and serious injuries on U.S. roadways toward zero.”Nate Smith, vice president of government relations, ATSSA

“The International Union of Operating Engineers proudly supports the Rural Road Safety Act, legislation designed to improve public safety on the transportation routes that connect rural American communities. We appreciate Congresswoman Finkenauer’s leadership on essential legislation to rebuild America’s transportation infrastructure and look forward to working with her to enact this into law.”James T. Callahan, general president, International Union of Operating Engineers

"The nation’s County Engineers maintain our local roads to ensure public safety, transport goods to market and most importantly, bring our families home safely each day. Congresswoman Finkenauer and Congressman Westerman recognize the crucial importance of safe local roadways, and we commend their efforts to improve and enhance their safety through the High Risk Rural Roads program. We fully support their goal of making sure every county and rural community has the necessary life-saving tools to make these safety improvements a reality.” – Kevan Stone, executive director, National Association of County Engineers

“Counties own and maintain 45 percent of America’s roadways, and safety is always our top priority. The High Risk Rural Roads program will provide counties with additional resources to ensure that even the most remote roads have appropriate safety measures in place. We applaud Congresswoman Finkenauer’s and Congressman Westerman’s efforts to invest in safeguards that will ultimately save lives.” – Matthew Chase, executive director, National Association of Counties

“On behalf of the National Troopers Coalition, we commend Congresswoman Finkenauer and Congressman Westerman for their efforts to improve rural road safety. Thirty percent of all automobile traffic runs on the rural roads where people live, work and play. Importantly, one-third of heavy truck traffic runs on rural roads. Our troopers and other law enforcement office who patrol these roads can attest to the added dangers on rural roads, and we support efforts like this to improve the safety of our highways.” – Andrew Matthews, executive director, National Troopers Coalition

“I want to commend Congresswoman Finkenauer for her leadership on the Rural Road Safety Act.  This important bill will increase safety on rural roads, which are critical to the movement of goods and people across the entire nation. Furthermore, projects funded under this bill will not only make much needed infrastructure improvements, but with accompanying prevailing wage standards, will improve the financial trajectory of families and communities in rural America.” – Sean McGarvey, president, North America’s Building Trades Union

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