U.S. Treasury report outlines need for road maintenance, transit investment, and alternatives to driving

A new report from the U.S. Department of the Treasury says that Americans are wasting gas and time every year due to traffic on congested roads. Maintenance costs due to poor road conditions add additional financial burdens to family budgets. In total, the report estimates that insufficiencies in the transportation system and lack of transportation options cost over $100 billion in time and money.

However, many news stories have focused only on deficiencies in the road network and missed another message in the report: the need to give commuters alternatives to being stuck in traffic.

A major component of the report is the critical need to invest wisely in transportation infrastructure, including transit and intercity rail. The proposal emphasizes that “multimodal transportation investments are critical to making sure American families can travel without wasting time and money stuck in traffic,” and that “transportation choices, including mass transit and high-speed rail…deliver the greatest long-term benefits to those who need it the most: the middle class.” The Partnership for Sustainable Communities, an organization formed by the USDOT, HUD, and EPA, states that investment in transit can “decrease household transportation costs, reduce our dependence on oil, improve air quality, and promote public health.” Investment in public transportation projects also creates more jobs than traditional highway capacity projects. According to a Smart Growth America report, transit projects generate 31 percent more new jobs than new road and bridge projects.

Other findings from report include:

  • Ninety percent of Americans spend at least $1 out of every $7 earned on transportation. The average family now spends $7,600 every year on transportation, more than is spent on food and twice what it spends on health care.
  • An estimated $85 billion annual investment over the next 20 years is necessary to bring highways and bridges to a state of good repair.
  • America invests less in transportation than other developed nations. We currently spend only 2 percent of GDP on transportation infrastructure, compared to 9 percent in China and 5 percent in Europe.
  • The U.S. ranked 13 out of 32 OECD nations in our satisfaction with the public transportation system.