Rural Transport Toolbox
In 1998 the United States Department of Agriculture and the United States Department of Transportation signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which the agencies jointly agreed to address long-term agricultural transportation, rural passenger and freight mobility challenges. As a result of the Memorandum of Understanding, the agencies have pursued a variety of projects of mutual interest, including the development of this website. The Transportation Toolbox for Rural Areas and Small Communities was designed to assist public and private stakeholders in planning, developing, and improving rural areas and small communities, especially through transportation and related projects. It is a work in progress, and we welcome your suggestions.TABLE OF CONTENTS
As the twenty-first century begins, the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are committed to meeting the challenges of improving safety, enhancing the environment, stimulating economic growth, and improving transportation for rural areas and small communities.
Both USDA and USDOT offer an array of programs that, when used together, can help ensure that rural communities share in the planning and decision making processes by which transportation investments are made. The USDA has a long history of helping rural communities balance economic development with the value of maintaining the positive aspects of rural life. Recognizing transportation’s crucial role in this balance, the department offers several programs that can assist rural areas and small communities in their efforts to develop sustainable communities through transportation and other related projects. Similarly, the USDOT has launched the Rural Transportation Initiative—a comprehensive set of transportation programs aimed at providing rural communities with a larger capacity to shape their future.
USDA RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Transportation plays a crucial role in the sustainable development of rural areas and small communities. Whether it’s the building and planning of pedestrian-oriented main streets in small towns to stimulate economic development, or the improvement of public transportation infrastructure to enhance the movement of goods or access to jobs, transportation literally binds a community together. Helping the people of rural America develop sustainable communities and improve their quality of life is the mission area of USDA's Rural Development. Within the Office of Rural Development, USDA’s Rural Business-Cooperative Service and USDA’s Rural Housing Service both oversee funding programs that can be used for transportation related projects that enhance the sustainable development of rural America. Rural areas and small communities can tailor the benefits of these programs towards the development of transportation systems that stimulate economic activity while maintaining the unique quality of life found in rural America.
RURAL BUSINESS-COOPERATIVE SERVICE
USDA Rural Development’s Rural Housing Service provides direct loans, guaranteed loans, and grants for community facilities. Certain public transportation facilities may qualify for these funds. Some past examples include:
Other types of public transportation facilities may also qualify.
USDA FOREST SERVICE
With a mission of "caring for the land and serving the people," the USDA Forest Service recognizes the need to balance the conservation of natural resources with the need to ensure that nearby communities are not denied the economic benefits of living near a National Forest. The USDA Forest Service has several programs that complement community transportation with the goal of improving rural community sustainability. The programs are designed to assist communities located within or adjacent to National Forests, and to assist communities that wish to use wood-based resources as an alternative for transportation infrastructure.
There are few more irreparable marks that can be left on public lands than to build a road. The USDA Forest Service's overriding objective of road management is to work with local communities to provide a forest road system that best serves the management objectives and public uses of national forests and grasslands while protecting the health of affected watersheds.
Individual national forest lands will employ a scientifically-based road analysis procedure to assess environmental and social issues and concerns associated with maintaining, constructing, reconstructing, and decommissioning National Forest System roads. Because of the potential impact on local communities, this process will include extensive public involvement at the local level. Potential economic impacts to nearby communities as a result of local road decisions will be addressed and documented in an appropriate National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) document.
WOOD IN TRANSPORTATION
Through its Wood in Transportation Program, USDA Forest Service is helping rural areas and small communities use alternative resources for transportation infrastructure. The purpose of the Wood in Transportation Program is to improve local transportation networks and revitalize local economies by using wood for bridges and related transportation structures.
With technical and financial assistance from the program, communities can build highway bridges, portable bridges for temporary access, and pedestrian and trail structures--all made out of advanced construction design wood. Rural areas and communities can take advantage of this program to provide quality transportation infrastructure at reduced costs.
RURAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Rural Community Assistance programs help rural communities build skills and develop strategies to address social, environmental and economic change. Already, this program has been used to help rural communities enhance their transportation infrastructure--increasing tourism and providing connections between communities and adjacent national forests.
USDOT's RURAL TRANSPORTATION INITIATIVE
The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) designed the Rural Transportation Initiative to ensure that rural areas and small communities share in the mobility, economic, and social benefits that many USDOT programs provide. The Initiative aims to increase the capacity of rural America to play a more integral role in the planning and decision-making that shape transportation systems. It also provides an array of technical assistance and grant programs to enable communities to plan, develop and improve air, surface, and water transportation infrastructure.
RURAL INITIATIVE OBJECTIVES
RURAL INITIATIVE OUTCOMES
USDOT programs can help address the safety, infrastructure, and other concerns outlined in the objectives of the Rural Initiative. Many of these programs are authorized through the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR-21). By passing these authorizing bills, Congress provided rural America with many tools to address its transportation system in a holistic manner.
The basic eligibility criteria for all USDOT programs include the following:
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administers a wide array of programs, including those pertaining to roads, highways, bridges, and corridors. A full list of FHWA programs is available on the main FHWA website. Technical assistance and project-specific questions can be directed to the FHWA's field offices.
The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) administers a wide array of programs, including those pertaining to buses and vanpools. A complete list of the major FTA assistance programs is available on the main FTA website. Technical assistance and project-specific questions may be directed to the Federal Transit Administration's field offices.
Airport planning may be done on an area-wide or individual airport basis, with input from local officials. Area-wide planning includes preparation of airport system plans for states, regions and metropolitan areas. These plans identify the aviation facilities needed to meet current and future air transportation needs. Grants for airport system planning are made to planning agencies having area-wide jurisdiction over the area being studied. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) uses this information in preparing the National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems.
U.S. COAST GUARD AND MARITIME PROGRAMS
Rural areas and small communities are facing many environmental, demographic, and economic changes--challenges that are the inevitable byproducts of growing travel demand, increased sprawl, and dispersed destinations. The challenge is to maintain the vitality of these rural areas and small communities while preserving and protecting the natural, historic, scenic, and cultural environment. The USDOT has a wide range of programs directed specifically toward protecting and enhancing communities and the natural environment, both of which can be impacted by transportation. These programs are significant tools in preserving the quality of life and environment in rural America.
Promoting and improving safety is the USDOT's highest priority. The Department continues to have a strong focus on highway safety, in particular, because about 94 percent of all transportation-related fatalities and injuries involve highway motor vehicle crashes. Rural America has a significant highway safety problem. Close to 80 percent of the Nation's roadway miles are in rural areas; over 58 percent of the total fatalities occur in rural areas and the fatality rate for rural areas (per 100 million vehicles miles of travel) is more than twice that of urban areas. Crashes in rural areas are more likely to result in fatalities due to a combination of factors including extreme terrain, faster speeds, more alcohol involvement, and the longer time intervals from the advent of a crash to medical treatment due to delays in locating crash victims and the distance to medical treatment centers. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s highway safety goals are: 1) a 50 percent reduction in truck crash-related fatalities by 2010, and 2) a 20 percent reduction in crash-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2008.
Among the priority safety areas for the Department of Transportation are reducing single-vehicle run-off-road fatal crashes -- two-thirds of which occur in rural areas. Many of these fatal crashes take place on two-lane rural roads and involve vehicles striking fixed objects, or going down an embankment or into a ditch. Speeding is another factor in many run-off-the road rural crashes.
Additionally, priority programs to increase seat belt use and reduce alcohol-impaired driving nationwide will have a major influence on reducing highway fatalities and injuries in rural areas. The Department also focuses on safety of bicycling and walking, because these are prevalent methods of transportation in some rural areas. They constitute a safety problem -- 35 percent of the bicyclists’ fatalities were in rural areas and although fewer pedestrians are injured in rural areas than in urban areas, they are more likely to result in fatalities largely because of the time it takes to get to a hospital.
Continued reductions in the aviation accident rate, during a period of rapid growth in air travel, remain a primary task of the Department. Efforts to reduce highway-railway grade crossing crashes also are continuing.
USDA AND USDOT PROGRAM EXAMPLES
Send us your success story to share with others.
American Farmland Trust's Timber Bridge at Cove Mountain Farm, Franklin County, Pennsylvania (USDA)--Cove Mt. Farm is dissected by Little Cove Creek. While the stream is usually shallow, storms can cause water levels to rise quickly, preventing equipment and livestock from crossing. While this might not be an issue on most farms, having a dairy on the opposite side of the creek from a milking station can be a real problem. In cooperation with the Pennsylvania Rural Development Council, engineers from the USDA Forest Service designed a wood bridge to address this problem, saving the American Farmland Trust between $14,000 and $54,000.
Information: National Wood and Transportation Information Center (304) 285-1591
Katy Trail State Park: Linking Communities for 200 Miles in Missouri (USDOT)– A public-private partnership that, once completed, will be one of the longest rail-to-trails conversions in the U.S. creating a transportation route that crosses nine counties and links villages with few than 15 residents to towns of more than 50,000. The historic Sedalia Depot will be restored as part of the project.
Funding Sources: DOT Transportation Enhancement, State of Missouri, and Private benefactor
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates the 233 mile long Katy Trail will attract over 200,000 users each year. The State of Missouri bought the abandoned Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and the first segment opened in April of 1990. Katy follows the Missouri River from St. Charles past Jefferson City to Boonville, then continue southwest to Sedalia; with plans for an extension from Sedalia to the outskirts of Clinton.
Katy's surface is hard-packed, crushed limestone makes it available to wheelchairs, thin-tired bicycles, mountain bikes, as well as walkers and runners. Places like Easley have opened bike-rental shops and two old railroad depots in Sedalia and Boonville will be restored. It is hoped that eventually the trail can continue to the suburbs of Kansas City.
Tourist stops along the way that booster use include Marthasville, once home of Daniel Boone; Defiance, named for enticing a railroad stop away from a neighboring town; Augusta, the heart of German culture in the 1800's; pre-Civil War Rocheport, mentioned in the journals of Lewis and Clark; and Boonville, the first major river port and later a booming railroad town.
Information: FHWA Environmental Planning, 202-366-0106
A Hillside Made of Cloth: Idaho’s Lost Trail Pass (USDOT)-- The geotextile wall built on this slope—one of the steepest and highest roadsides in the country—saved trees and helped prevent soil from eroding into a salmon-spawning stream. Native plants were used because they can handle the conditions – "they are site-adapted and genetically suited" says Jan Kruegar
Funding Sources: ISTEA demonstration funds, State of Idaho
The idea was the brainchild of geotechnical experts from FHWA's Western Federal Lands Highway Division who designed this fabric-reinfot alt="Hillside made of cloth in Idaho" border=0>A Hillside Made of Cloth: Idaho’s Lost Trail Pass (USDOT)-- The geotextile wall built on this slope—one of the steepest and highest roadsides in the country—saved trees and helped prevent soil from eroding into a salmon-spawning stream. Native plants were used because they can handle the conditions – "they are site-adapted and genetically suited" says Jan Kruegar
Funding Sources: ISTEA demonstration funds, State of Idaho
The idea was the brainchild of geotechnical experts from FHWA's Western Federal Lands Highway Division who designed this fabric-reinforced slope along a reconstructed section of Scenic Byway U.S. Highway 93 between Salmon, Idaho, and the Montana state line. The new geotextile slope is 50 feet high and 45 degrees steep. It had to be that high to save trees and to present soil from sliding into a creek below where, every year, salmon come to spawn before returning to the Salmon River downstream.
This slope was crucial for draining water and controlling erosion - a drainage system that would not contain water and build up pressure but instead would let excess water seep out gradually and slowly. This design also surpassed the esthetic and environmental goals for it not only saved close to 100 tall pine trees but thousand of young salmon. Using innovative techniques, construction workers were able to cover the entire area with an erosion control mat, revegetate using native plants and a "hydro-seeding" process. Using native plants that were site-adapted and genetically suited were critical to the project's success. The new slope is covered with a thick canopy of grasses and healthy shrubs and the plants are reseeding themselves.
Information: FHWA Environmental Planning, 202-366-0106
East Main Street Reconstruction, Westminster, MD (USDOT) - Through intensive community planning and hearings, the new plan for Main St. would save the 42 trees, add 104 new trees, widen sidewalks, add sidewalks - complimenting the historic buildings, reduced lane width, historic "street furniture" such as hitching posts were conserved. Lesson learned - citizen involvement at beginning saves time and dollars and brings increased demand for downtown retail and office space. (Flexibility in Highway Design)
Funding Sources: FHWA State Highway Formula Apportionment funds, Maryland DOT, City of Westminster
East Main Street has changed little since Jeb Stuart's cavalry pursued the 1st Delaware down its dusty way on June 29, 1863, in a prelude to Gettysburg. By 1990, Westminster had doubled its population, shopping malls were replacing downtown businesses, and the very age that had made downtown Westminster a National Register Historic District was eroding its attractions.
After the city and the public rejected original designs, the State appointed a committee to work with the community to come up with a design that would save trees, add trees, save and add to brick sidewalks and textured crossings, more efficient use of parking spaces, and preservation of heritage "street furniture such as boot scrapers and hitching posts.
Current and future street-improvement projects will involve residents and designers at initial states, and, as the construction takes place, flyers will tell people what is going to be done, when, and where.
Information: Maryland Department of Transportation, 410-321-2213
ADDITIONAL FUNDING AND TECHNICAL RESOURCES