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FHWA Home / Safety / Local and Rural Road / Implementing the High Risk Rural Roads Program

Implementing the High Risk Rural Roads Program

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6. Summary

Rural traffic fatalities are a significant issue that must be addressed at the Federal, State, and local level. Thousands of lives are lost each year, and many potential deaths can be prevented with traffic safety solutions.

Although some States still struggle with the HRRRP, tremendous progress has been made. The obligation rate has steadily increased over the life of the program. However, obligation rate alone should not be used as a ruler to measure the success of this program. The research has shown that many States with low obligation rates have developed practices in data collection and analysis, project selection, program coordination, and training that will ensure successful implementation of the program.

The HRRRP was developed to help States implement solutions on locally owned roadways, a segment of the system often overlooked. States have been faced with a number of barriers to implementation. These include the collection, analysis, and identification of crash and exposure data; the intricacies involved in determining suitable projects for the program; and the complexities associated with the coordination of different levels of government and other stakeholders.

However, some States have worked through these road blocks and others continue to work towards full implementation of the HRRRP. States have discovered innovative ways to collect, analyze, and use the data to support HRRRP implementation. For example, Missouri and New Jersey are among the States that identify HRRRP-eligible routes using lane miles as an exposure data element to calculate crash rates, and Florida uses data from similar routes, neighboring counties, population densities, and other socio-economic data to develop estimated traffic volumes for all roads.

When selecting projects for the HRRRP, the number of stakeholders involved varies from State to State. In New Jersey, the MPOs play an integral role in the initial project selection process and local agency coordination. Iowa, Nevada, and Minnesota are among the States that tie HRRRP projects directly to their Strategic Highway Safety Plan (SHSP) emphasis areas and strategies.

In Montana and Michigan the State DOT provides incentives for project proposals tied to other State safety programs, like Road Safety Audits or Transparency Reports.

Direct and/or indirect support to local government by the DOT and others is invaluable to the successful implementation of the HRRRP. Many States have provided HRRRP hands-on training and technical assistance to local agencies through the DOT or LTAP centers. California and Ohio, among others, have developed web sites dedicated to the HRRRP—including its rules, data collection, and analysis tools—and a project submission portal. Some States are developing noteworthy strategies to optimize the use of available HRRRP funds. For example, Missouri combined Federal and State funds, and used State DOT personnel to provide labor, to cost-effectively implement a HRRRP system-wide warning sign installation effort. Ohio used existing on-call contracts to quickly implement improvements.

The HRRRP has brought attention to the safety needs on rural roads. States that have taken advantage of this funding source have implemented numerous safety projects across the country with the potential to reduce fatalities and injuries on rural roadways. Whereas the noteworthy practices identified in this document do not compose an exhaustive list, by documenting and sharing these practices other States will gain insights as to how they can advance their programs. There is no one methodology or procedure that will fit all State programs. Examples shown may have to be massaged to fit within the State policy structure.

The HRRRP, although faced with challenges, has enormous potential to improve rural road safety if implemented. It has already brought added attention to the safety needs of these roadways as evidenced by the insurgency of other types of funding to rural roads in some States. Oftentimes the concern is that funding to address these roadways is lacking because they are less traveled; here there is a dedicated source of funds to be utilized on roadways with higher than normal severe crash rates or the potential for this occurring in the future.

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Page last modified on June 17, 2011.
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