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America's GPA: D+
Estimated Investment Needed by 2020:
$3.6 Trillion

What VMT On The Rise Means for Roads

February 28th, 2017 | By: Laura Hale

U.S. motorists set a new record for vehicle miles travelled (VMT) in 2016, driving over 3.2 trillion miles, an increase of 70 billion miles from 2015. VMT has long been on the rise, save for a dip during the recession. With so many vehicles on the road, it is no surprise that congestion has also been on the rise. The Texas A&M Transportation Institute estimated in 2014 that Americans spent 6.9 billion hours stuck in traffic due to congestion for an average of 42 hours per commuter. All of that sitting in traffic wasted 3.1 billion gallons of fuel. The lost time and wasted fuel add up—the total cost of congestion in 2014 was $160 billion.  This is a substantial increase from 30 years prior when Americans lost 2.1 billion hours to congestion with an average of 20 hours per commuter and the total cost of congestion was only $48 billion (in 2014 dollars). Investment is badly needed to repair America’s roadways and improve their performance (our highways and bridges have a $836 billion backlog), but adding building more road will not solve congestion on its own. With the U.S. population expected to grow by over 70 million by 2050, policymakers need to think plan ahead and think broadly to prevent congestion from paralyzing our roads. They should begin tackling congestion today through policies and technologies that maximize the capacity of the existing road network and by creating an integrated, multimodal transportation system that focuses on mobility for people and goods.

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Infrastructure in the News: Traveling Ho Ho Home for the Holidays

December 22nd, 2016 | By: Olivia Wolfertz

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which means record-setting numbers of Americans will take to planes, trains and automobiles to reach their holiday destinations. Holiday travel aside, our nation set a record for cumulative vehicle miles traveled (VMT) within just the first nine months of 2016. According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 2.4 trillion miles this year through September alone, more than any previous year. Theories behind this data include cheaper gasoline prices and an improving economy. According to AAA, U.S. drivers paid the second lowest price for gasoline over Thanksgiving weekend since 2008, an average of $2.13 a gallon. That same data reported in late November that average gas prices were below $2 per gallon in 12 states, and that U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year. And this year’s holiday season travel is predicted to be busy as well.  AAA reports that more than 103 million Americans are predicted to travel for the holidays — the highest level on record — and 1.5 million more travelers than last year. Of that amount, 93.6 million people are expected to drive to their destinations, 6 million are expected to fly and 3.5 million will likely take other modes of transportation. Unfortunately, these impressive VMT increases also contribute to the wear and tear of our nation’s already beleaguered roads. Even with the FAST Act investment of $226 billion over five years for roads and bridges, it’s not enough to bring surface transportation infrastructure into a good state of repair. Hopefully lawmakers can work together in the new administration to create a long-term funding solution that will restore the roads and bridges our nation increasingly relies on.

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Summer Travel Boom as Americans Hit the Road

September 5th, 2014 | By: America's Infrastructure Report Card

After being cooped up inside for what was in some parts of the country the coldest and snowiest winter on record, it appears based upon latest data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) that Americans traveled on our roadways in force this spring and early summer. Vehicle miles traveled (VMT), a common measure of roadway use, hit its highest level in six years between July 2013 and June 2014. The first half of 2014 saw the fourth-highest mileage number ever since the FHWA first began collecting VMT information nearly eight decades ago. While dipping VMT has had its benefits for transit ridership and environmental air quality, the uptick is particularly good news for the ailing federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), which provides state and local governments with money for transportation. A decrease in VMT during the end of 2007 following the Great Recession came at a time when highway and transit spending was exceeding revenues in the HTF. Since 2010, as the economy has improved, VMT has been slowly inching upward. However, this latest FHWA data suggests that VMT and the gasoline taxes that are collected remains a viable way to generate user fees for the HTF to dedicate towards transportation improvements. The real problem appears to be the annual decrease in purchasing power of user fees as a result of Congress’ inability to raise rates in order to maintain necessary federal investments in infrastructure. Congress should be encouraged by this latest report on the health of American mobility and use it as an opportunity to #FixTheTrustFund.

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