The TRIP research group said Kentucky could improve its higher-than-average roadway crash record by investing in infrastructure improvements that widen lanes and shoulders and upgrade road geometry.
In a new report, TRIP said that "roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes."
In the three-year period of 2014-16, it said, Kentucky had an average of 755 fatalities a year from traffic crashes for a rate of 1.54 deaths per 100 million miles of vehicle travel. That compares with a national average of 1.08, TRIP said.
"The severity of serious traffic crashes could be reduced through roadway improvements, where appropriate," the report said, "such as adding turn lanes, removing or shielding obstacles, adding or improving medians, widening lanes, widening and paving shoulders, improving intersection layout, and providing better road markings and upgrading or installing traffic signals.
"Roads with poor geometry, with insufficient clear distances, without turn lanes, lacking or having narrow shoulders for the posted speed limits, or poorly laid out intersections or interchanges, pose greater risks to motorists, pedestrians and bicyclists."
The report comes as legislators are eyeing a bipartisan proposal to raise motor fuel user fees by 10 cents a gallon, the AP reported, to generate $300 million a year more for road improvements.
TRIP said a survey of Kentucky county governments showed that respondents rated 20 percent of county-maintained rates in poor condition, with another 26 percent rated only fair and 53 percent rated good.
It also indicated those entities were too squeezed by funding needs to keep up. The survey, TRIP said, "found that 29 percent of Kentucky's county-maintained roads are in need of resurfacing," but that current funding levels would only allow resurfacing of three percent. Respondents said nine percent of those roads needed a full reconstruction from the roadbed up, but available funds would only cover rebuilds for one percent.
TRIP said based on 2016 data that Kentucky had eight percent of roadway bridges or 1,110 rated structurally deficient – meaning they had significant deterioration of the bridge deck, supports or other major components.
Even though they were safe for traffic to use, TRIP said the deterioration meant that many would have weight restrictions that could force heavy loads such as emergency vehicles, commercial trucks, school buses and farm equipment to take long detours to avoid those structures.
The research group said all of this can sap economic vitality and worsen living condition for travelers in the state.
"A lack of adequate transportation funding can result in deteriorated road and bridge conditions, diminished traffic safety and reduced access," TRIP said, "all of which hamper business productivity, limit economic development opportunities, increase vehicle operating costs and reduce a region's overall quality of life."
It added that making the necessary transportation system improvements "will require long-term, sustainable funding," but "is critical to supporting economic growth, improved safety and quality of life."
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