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Methodology to Measure the Benefits and Costs of Rural Road Closure: A Kansas Case Study


While rural roads are essential to state economies, increasing farm size and the corresponding increase in farm vehicle size coupled with declining rural population have stressed the rural road system. As county population declines the financial ability of counties to maintain and rebuild the road and bridge system isn’t keeping up with the rate of deterioration. If counties can’t maintain the rural road system as it currently exists, reducing the size of the system should be considered.

The overall objective of the paper is to estimate the economic impact on selected county road systems from reducing the size of the system. The specific objectives include (a) for a sample of three Kansas counties, measure the benefits and costs of keeping the road system as it currently exists and (b) for the same sample of Kansas counties, measure the benefits and costs of several scenarios of county road closure.

The main conclusion is that rural counties will be able to save money by closing some relatively low traffic volume roads and redirecting the savings toward increasing the quality of other county roads. Counties with relatively extensive road systems (miles of road per square mile) and relatively high population density are less likely to realize savings from road closure. In contrast, counties with less extensive road systems and relatively low population density are more likely to realize significant savings from closure of relatively low volume roads.

by Michael W. Babcock and Abhinav Alakshendra

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