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W.Va. rural roads, bridges among worst in nation, report says

| Tuesday, May 19, 2015, 11:18 p.m.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia received poor marks in a new report that examined traffic fatalities and road and bridge conditions in rural areas.

Twenty-nine percent of major rural roads in West Virginia were in poor condition in 2013, the sixth-highest rate in the nation, according to the report released Tuesday by TRIP, a Washington-based nonprofit transportation research group. Thirteen percent of the state's rural bridges were structurally deficient in 2014, the 16th-highest rate.

West Virginia ranked seventh for rural traffic fatalities, with 2.61 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel in 2013. That rate is more than double the 1.08 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel on all other roads in the state.

Nationwide, 15 percent of major rural roads were in poor condition in 2013, and 11 percent of rural bridges were structurally deficient in 2014. The national rural traffic fatality rate was 2.2 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel.

West Virginia's high ranking for rural traffic fatalities is not surprising. More than 90 percent of the state's road mileage is classified as rural, and a majority of residents live in rural areas, state Department of Transportation spokesman Brent Walker said in a telephone interview.

Walker said the state is implementing all of the safety measures recommended by TRIP's report, including installing rumble strips along center lines and the sides of roads, improving signage and adding skid-resistant surfaces at curves.

Highways officials believe these safety measures contributed to a decline in total traffic fatalities from 332 in 2013 to 272 in 2014, he said.

Although the state has made improvements, a lot of work remains, Walker said.

“Sometimes we're poor to practice triage as it relates to both our bridge program and our paving program,” he said.

A final report is expected to be released Wednesday by the West Virginia Blue Ribbon Highway Commission, which was established in 2012 by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to develop a long-term strategic plan for the state's highway system.

TRIP said it analyzed the most current data available from sources that included the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.

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