This report has been prepared with funds provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Mountain-Plains Consortium (MPC). The MPC member universities include North Dakota State University, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming, and Utah State University.
The authors would like to thank Don Andersen, North Dakota LTAP Center; Gary Larson, Montana Department of Transportation; Terry Jorgenson, South Dakota Department of Transportation; and Ken Skorseth, South Dakota LTAP Center for their assistance with the mailings. Their help was invaluable. Also, thank you to the many individuals that completed the questionnaires. Without them there would be no results to report. Thanks also are extended to Jennifer Swenson for entering the surveys.
The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and the accuracy of the information presented herein. This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the Department of Transportation, University Transportation Centers Program, in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the contents or use thereof.
There are two major players in the transportation system: users and decision makers. Traditionally, public agencies (transportation agencies at the federal, state, county, and local level) held most of the decision-making powers related to transportation. The decision makers referred to in this study include county engineers, county road supervisors, and county commissioners. These decisions pertain to the physical infrastructure and operating characteristics of roadways. Infrastructure issues include financing and programming of building, improving, and maintaining highway transportation structures. Operational issues include regulations, enforcement, and taxing of users. A multitude of federal and state laws were established to assure efficient and safe use of the nation's transportation infrastructure. Road users, on the other hand, include motorists and motor carriers who utilize the highway transportation system. These users finance some costs of the transportation system by paying taxes and user fees. Road users typically expect adequate road services to be provided by governmental agencies. Users of transportation services participate in directing some road decisions through public input mechanisms and input to elected officials. However, in many cases, there still will be differences between perceptions of providers and users. To fill this gap, new federal policy specifically had mandated transportation agencies to adopt active and effective public participation plans. The transportation plans developed according to the 1991 Inter-modal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) requirements and continued in the Transportation Efficiency Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) consider input from extensive public involvement process. However, these efforts still are rudimentary in many states. In addition, user groups targeted for participation usually are located in urban centers where most of the population and economic activities are located. Even in these areas, citizen participate on is limited. This paper summarizes the results of a study on direct assessment of rural user needs in three states including Montana, North Dakota, and South Dakota. The objective of the study was to assess rural road users and providers perception of rural road needs. Different rural road user groups were identified to obtain a representative sample of perceptions. User groups targeted in the study included commuters, delivery services, mail carriers, school bus drivers, and farmers. An attitudinal survey was developed and administered to these groups. The survey yielded good return rates in each of the states, suggesting that more road users are becoming aware of road management and finance issues. This paper summarizes development of the survey and discusses major findings.