Record Yearly First-Half Highway Demand Seen Underscoring Need for Investments

AASHTO Journal, 21 August 2015

The Federal Highway Administration said U.S. driving topped 1.54 trillion miles in first-half 2015 to set a new record high, showing heightened demand on roadways even as Congress and states look for ways to pay for road and bridge projects.

The latest FHWA traffic estimates beat the previous record for any year’s first six month of 1.5 trillion miles set in June 2007.

The new data was published in the FHWA’s latest monthly “Traffic Volume Trends” report. It shows U.S. motorists traveled 275.13 billion vehicle miles in June, which was also the most for June of any year and marked 16 consecutive months of growth in vehicle miles traveled.

In addition, the FHWA said the latest driving level “is more than double the amount driven during the same period in 1981, continuing a trend of America’s driving mileage doubling nearly every generation.”


The agency said the demand on roadway systems is “reaffirming calls for increased investment in transportation infrastructure as demand on the nation’s highway system grows.”

Although Congress is on its long annual end-of-summer recess, House leaders have said they expect to produce a long-term surface transportation authorization bill after lawmakers return in September.

Once the House acts on the legislation it can go to conference with the Senate on the DRIVE Act the Senate approved July 30 – a six-year authorization for highway, transit and rail programs with three years of guaranteed funding.

In announcing the latest increases in vehicle miles traveled, the U.S. Department of Transportation said those figures confirm the trends the USDOT projected earlier this year in its “Beyond Traffic” report, and the need to prepare now for investments to head off increasing risks for the nation’s transportation system.

That report shows the infrastructure facing long-term stresses from a rapidly growing population, increasing freight volume, demographic shifts in rural and urban areas, and more frequent extreme weather events. It projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045.

“Increased gridlock nationwide can be expected unless changes are made in the near-term,” the department said.

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