Report shows status of rural infrastructure following extra resource allocations
How are rural roads evaluated and maintained? Several listeners inspired this question.
Jamie Palmer is a senior policy analyst at the Indiana University Public Policy Institute. Palmer co-authored an analysis of rural roads and bridges which looked at how increased state funding affected this infrastructure.
She said it looked at how two major contributors – the state’s gas tax and a grant program – affected rural road and bridge conditions
“One thing the General Assembly did that was awesome is they created the Community Crossing Grant program,” she said. “And so that gave smaller places the chance to sort of get a few more resources to upgrade what they were doing.”
The Community Crossing Grant program was established in 2016 and has distributed over $1.4 billion in state funding for local road and bridge projects. The state’s gasoline tax, increased by a 2017 road funding bill, has also generated revenue for these types of projects.
Palmer said the report followed rural road and bridge conditions in all counties except Marion after these monetary increases. She said Marion was excluded due to its “urban character” and said it would not have fit within the rural analysis.
Palmer said 2021 and 2022 data in the other counties mostly shows some slight improvement or stable conditions.
“Conditions are improving,” she said. “Mostly they're at least stable, and that's actually a good thing. When we started out way back when, thinking about how much it would cost, there was a lot of infrastructure that was really poor and we're finding that there's less and less.”
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She said she is also encouraged by the improvement of rural bridges.
“[Bridges are] definitely getting better,” Palmer said. “There are fewer and fewer bridges that have elements that are either getting ready to fail or failing.”
She said there are still challenges in improving roads and bridges in a timely manner, such as inclement weather in the state.
“There might be some big winter storm or there might be a lot freezed off, because there are a bunch of storms in a winter,” Palmer said. “And then, that will break up more of your pavement than maybe you'd planned on. So you have to go back and address those pavements.”
She added inflation and less available spending money is also likely driving up costs for road repairs.
However, Palmer said she is hopeful these extra resources will continue to support good road conditions.