If you haven’t heard the news yet, the Federal Highway Administration just announced that Americans seem to be driving less: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/pressroom/fhwa0811.htm.
With sample Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) data – which is the number of miles that vehicles are driven – we can see that, since last November, overall VMT is down over where it was this time last year.
This is significant for three reasons: first, this hasn’t happened since 1979. Second, this has significant positive ramifications for our environment. According to our latest estimates, fewer cars on the road has translated into a 9 million metric ton decline in greenhouse emissions for the first quarter of 2008 alone. And third, this underscores the financial challenges of the Highway Trust Fund (the federal source of financing for Interstates and National Highways).
It’s a challenge with massive financial consequences – the less Americans drive, the less revenue is generated for the Highway Trust Fund. The less revenue in the Highway Trust Fund, the less funding is available for states to keep roads healthy and efficient – resulting in more traffic tie-ups, more inefficiency, reduced driving and even less funding.
This latest trend is yet another reason that we need to overhaul the highway financing system.
The system invented by President Eisenhower over 50 years ago got America this far… but it can’t take us much further. New funding methods that are not dependent on fuel consumption are needed and needed now.
- Acting FHWA Administrator Jim Ray