Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is at the centre of a row after saying the roads in his state is far better than those in the US. Last week, while addressing a business round-table organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum in Washington, Chouhan had said, “When I got down at the Washington airport and travelled on the road, I felt the roads in Madhya Pradesh are better than the United States… I am saying this not just for the sake of saying.”
Chouhan’s statement not only invited criticism from the opposition in India but also took the social media by storm, as Twitterati flooded the microblogging site with memes making fun of Chouhan’s statement. However, the MP Chief Minister has refused to take back his statement. Instead, on Sunday in Bhopal, Chouhan cited a report cited to claim that 92 per cent of the roads in Washington are in “poor” shape.
“I want to give you an example. If you go to the city through the super corridor from the Indore airport, you will find world class roads. This was in my mind when I was speaking in the US,” he said.
“I had read a report that 92 per cent of the roads in Washington are in poor shape,” he said, adding, “I went there for branding of Madhya Pradesh and not to highlight the poor condition of roads in some localities, but the Congress sees politics in everything,” he said.
Chouhan had reportedly quoted a report by TRIP, a national transportation research group. Following are some of the findings about the roads in the US highlighted by TRIP in its earlier reports
State of rural roads in the US
In a report titled ‘Rural Connections: Challenges and Opportunities in America’s Heartland’ TRIP had published some little known facts about the state of rural roads in the world’s biggest economy. The report was published on the TRIP website in June this year.
It said, “Sixty-six cities of 50,000 or more in the U.S. do not have direct access to the Interstate Highway System.”
The report further said, “Rural transportation accessibility and connectivity is critical to transportation-dependent business sectors including the growing energy production sector, advanced manufacturing and tourism. Many jobs located in urban areas also depend on economic input from rural communities.”
According to the report, poor state or rural roads continue even as the US population had nearly doubled from 165 million to 323 million since the Interstate Highway System was designated in 1956. It further said, “The abandonment of more than 100,000 miles of rail lines in recent decades, mostly in rural areas, has reduced access in many rural communities and increased reliance on trucking for freight movement.”
It also quoted a report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), saying “connectivity is particularly poor in rural portions of Western states because of the significant distance between Interstate highway routes and the lack of adequate rail service.”
Public transportation in rural America: “Only 60 percent of rural counties nationwide have public transportation available and 28 percent of those have very limited service.”
About fatalities on rural roads in the United States, TRIP said, “non-Interstate roads have a traffic fatality rate that is approximately two-and-a-half times higher than all other roads. In 2015, non-Interstate rural roads had a traffic fatality rate of 2.18 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles of travel, compared to a fatality rate on all other roads of 0.83 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. (Link of the report: https://www.tripnet.org/docs/Rural_Roads_TRIP_Report_2017.pdf)
Status roads at the national level in the US
At the national level also the condition of roads is not as shiny as it may appear to the outside world, according to Twitter.
“Forty-four percent of America’s major roads are in poor or mediocre condition. Driving on roads in need of repair costs U.S. motorists $120 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs – $553 per motorist,” it said, adding, nine percent of America’s bridges are structurally deficient.
According to the report, 43 percent of America’s major urban Interstates experience congestion during peak hours, costing American motorists around $121 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.
Not only this, “motor vehicle crashes in which roadway design was likely a contributing factor cost U.S. motorists $93.6 billion per year in medical costs, lost productivity, travel delays workplace costs, insurance costs and legal cost, TRIP said. (Link of the report: https://www.tripnet.org/docs/Fact_Sheet_National.pdf)