Key Topic

Highways and Roadways

By 2050, the total U.S. population is projected to reach 420 million, a 50 percent increase over 50 years. This growing society will demand higher levels of goods and services, and will rely on the transportation system to access them, according to the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission.

Inefficiencies in our transportation system are costing billions and the statistics about the current condition of our highways and roads are alarming:

Americans waste 4.2 billion hours and 3.9 billion gallons of fuel a year sitting in traffic – equal to nearly one full work week and three weeks’ worth of gas for every traveler; the total cost of congestion in 2009 was $115 billion (Texas Transportation Institute, 2009).   The national impact of crashes in 2003 was $230.6 billion (2.3% of GDP) according to U.S. DOT.  By way of comparison, Medicare annual costs in 2008 were just over 3% of GDP (The New York City Pedestrian Safety Study and Action Plan, August 2010).   One-third of America's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, and 45 percent of major urban highways are congested (American Society of Civil Engineers, 2009).   A 2005 FHWA study estimated the direct cost of highway bottlenecks to truckers at $7.8 billion a year.  Most of the bottlenecks—124 million hours of delay--occur at urban interstate interchanges at the cost of $4 billion.  Each of the top ten Interstate bottlenecks causes more than a million truck-hours of delay a year (The National Chamber Foundation: The Transportation Challenge, 2008).  

The primary source of funding for federal investments in our highways and mass transit system comes from the Highway Trust Fund.  The Highway Trust Fund was created in 1956 to construct the Interstate Highway System which has grown to 47,000 miles.   Funds deposited into the Highway Trust Fund include excise taxes on motor fuels and truck-related taxes, including taxes on gasoline, diesel fuel, gasohol, and other fuels; truck tires and truck sales; and heavy vehicle use.  In 1983, the Highway Trust Fund was divided into the Highway Account and the Mass Transit Account.  More than 80 percent of the total fund is the Highway Account, including a majority of the fuel taxes as well as all truck-related taxes.  The federal tax on gasoline is 18.4 cents per gallon and has not been raised since 1993. (source: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10780.pdf)

To address growing needs, including repair and maintenance of existing assets, more resources will be needed and we must find smarter, more efficient ways to make these investments to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely.