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Rural America needs more highway work, according to a group of state highway department directors.

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has released a report outlining the work needed on rural roads as freight traffic is slated to increase. “Improving connectivity and mobility for the 60 million Americans who live in rural areas is just as important as improving mobility for those who live in metropolitan areas,” said John Horsley, executive director of the AASHTO. “Rural states are essential to the nation’s success, not only to meet the needs of their own citizens, but also to maintain their part of the national network on which the U.S. economy depends.” 

• Opposition from rural landowners in the Texas Hill County appears to be stopping a very large transmission line project, according to Asher Price in the Austin American-Statesman. The landowners in counties just west of Austin have been heatedly opposing a transmission line meant to carry wind power from West Texas to cities in the East. The head of the state public utilities commission said he is now unwilling to support the project.

“The about-face points to how political power and wealth have grown in the Hill Country,” Price writes. The area is beautiful and it has attracted many monied residents from the cities — who brought with them power and an outsider’s attitude that is sometimes grating.

“Burnet County has totally changed from a good ol’ boy commissioners court system and totally rural attitude and come into the 21st century,” said one newcomer. “It changed just because people moved in here from Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin.”

•Corn farmers took their product to VeraSun Energy, a ethanol producer. They got paid. Now, with VeraSun in bankruptcy, creditors are contacting farmers wanting the money back.

Chris Clayton at DTN reports that farmers have received some “pretty threatening” letters from VeraSun creditors. Farmers who received payment up to 90 days before the bankruptcy filing are getting letters.

• West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin (above, with his wife Gayle) won the Democratic primary to replace Sen. Robert Byrd. Reporter Ken Ward Jr. asks if Manchin’s victory also a “win for coal.” 

Democrat Ken Hechler campaigned in the primary as the candidate who would work against mountaintop removal mining. Hechler received 17 percent of the vote in the primary. That’s led some in West Virginia to say that the controversial form of mining is more popular in the state than protestors and newspaper accounts would have others to believe. http://blogs.wvgazette.com/coaltattoo/

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