The level of motor vehicle traffic on U.S. roads and streets grew 1.4 percent this year through August, the Federal Highway Administration said, as drivers accumulated 30.6 billion more vehicle miles than in the first eight months of 2016.
That also means traffic volume continues to set new highs, since 2016 was a record-high year for the U.S. driving public and each month of 2017 has seen volume reach ever higher.
So far in 2017, the FHWA in its latest monthly “traffic volume trends” report estimated that U.S. drivers had accumulated nearly 2.148 trillion vehicle miles of travel through August.
And for August alone, volume also grew by 1.4 percent or 3.9 billion vehicle miles, the report said, from August 2016. That was the month that saw unusual traffic patterns for many parts of the country as people traveled to be in or near an area that experienced a total solar eclipse on Aug. 21.
This latest in a series of record traffic volume reports comes at a time when state departments of transportation are waiting for Congress and the Trump administration to complete work on a fiscal 2018 budget.
That would clear the way for the DOTs to receive their scheduled increase in highway funding of about $1 billion overall, which Congress both authorized and paid for with its 2015 passage of the multiyear Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.
Instead, Congress extended fiscal 2017 funding levels from Sept. 30 until Dec. 8 to give members more time to negotiate a full-year 2018 spending plan for all government agencies.
State DOTs, transit agencies and other transportation system stakeholders have also been waiting all year for the administration and lawmakers to act on a promised major infrastructure investment plan.
The administration has repeatedly pushed back its timeline for offering a proposal, and majority-party lawmakers have yet to offer a broad plan of their own as they wait for the president to spell out how he would pay for infrastructure. And the administration has not yet awarded about $1.2 billion dollars in 2017 project grant funds that Congress already authorized.
Meanwhile, recent Treasury Department data show that total federal receipts from Highway Trust Fund excise taxes fell slightly for the budget year that ended Sept. 30, as a drop from retail taxes on truck sales more than offset mild gains from gasoline and diesel taxes that are the trust fund’s main revenue generators.
Transportation stakeholder groups have called for Congress to take advantage of momentum for tax reform and infrastructure legislation to generate more revenue for the trust fund, so that its dedicated taxes can keep up with demand.
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