AASHTO Journal, 26 February 2016
It had been expected but now it is official: The Federal Highway Administration said U.S. traffic volume in 2015 set an all-time annual high for vehicle miles traveled, a record that underscores the rising demand on roadway infrastructure.
The FHWA said preliminary data from its monthly “Traffic Volume Trends” report showed VMTs reached 3.148 trillion miles last year, up 3.5 percent from 2014. “For a sense of scale, 3.148 trillion miles is roughly the same distance as 337 round trips from Earth to Pluto,” the agency said.
It also said the 2015 VMT level beat the prior record set in 2007, which was before the deep 2008-09 recession briefly knocked volume down. VMT began steadily rising again in 2012.
The likelihood that 2015 would set a new annual record had been evident for a while, as most months of that year also set all-time highs for their turn on the calendar. It was confirmed when preliminary estimates from the FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” report showed drivers racked up 264.2 billion miles in December, up 4.2 percent from the same month in 2014.
That report is based on information collected from more than 5,000 “continuous count” stations nationwide.
December traffic on a seasonally adjusted basis also set a new high, even when adjusting for holiday travel.
The agency said the volume trend highlights “the growing demands facing the nation’s roads.”
At 11.3 percent, California led the nation with the largest unadjusted single-state traffic percent increase in December, compared with the same month a year earlier, followed by Hawaii at 7.2 percent and Arkansas at 6.2 percent. At 4.6 percent, Washington, D.C., had the largest unadjusted traffic single-month decrease.