My distinguished colleagues, you have heard me mention more than once, that the State of Missouri has been a leader in transportation. In 1808, Kings Highway from St. Louis to southeast, Missouri, became the first legally-designated road west of the Mississippi River. In 1929, Missouri was the first State to protect and earmark funds for highway purposes. In 1956, Missouri became the first State to accept bids and begin construction on the interstate highway system. The first stretch of interstate road on which work actually began was, I understand, Interstate 70 in St. Charles.
Now, however, we need to concentrate on addressing our tremendous infrastructure needs. A recent report by the Road Information Program stated that Missouri has the seventh highest percentage of structurally-deficient and functionally-obsolete bridges in the country, and that more than half of its major roads are in poor remedial condition and in need of improvement. In addition, the State of Missouri has the third highest percentage of urban freeway congestion in the nation.
One of my great concerns, obviously, is safety. Each day 114 Americans die on our highways. That's the equivalent of a major airplane crash every day. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children in this country. I know that some of these fatalities may have resulted from drunk driving, which is something that we need to be stricter on but many of the accidents and fatalities occur because of inadequate infrastructure. Highway fatalities in the State of Missouri increased 13 percent from 1992 to 1995. Over 4,000 people died on Missouri's highways during this time. Seventy-seven percent of the fatal crashes occurred on two-lane roads. In Missouri, 62 percent of the roads on the National Highway System, excluding the interstate, are two lanes, and this shows the level of the problem.
I wish the hearing could address every relevant issue pertaining to transportation, but because time is limited, we have set up three panels that will present oral testimony on a few of the issues. The first panel is geared primarily towards safety. The second panel will talk about economic development, and the third panel will discuss intermodalism.