Last week, the Federal Highway Administration reported that, with the data from November now in, it looks pretty clear that 2015 was a record year for Vehicle Miles Traveled.
By the end of November, U.S. drivers had racked up about 2.88 trillion vehicle miles traveled, with each of the first 11 months of the year showing an increase of between 2.5 and 4.9 percent over the corresponding month from 2014. Even if the December 2015 data show no gain from December 2014, which is unlikely, that would put the 2015 total over 3.1 trillion. That’s an increase over 2014 of more than 100 billion miles.
No matter how you slice it, that’s a lot of miles…in terms of absolute value, and also as an indicator of what kind of volume America’s roads are bearing. And, as Secretary Foxx observed on his Facebook page last Friday [external link], that’s 2.88 trillion good reasons for America to get #BeyondTraffic.
Because each of those miles is wear and tear on the roadway surface. And when combined, those miles represent a significant challenge to our capacity. And that means traffic congestion. Which means lost time, lost money, and increased greenhouse gas emissions. So, while we appreciate that our roads made possible those 3+ trillion vehicle miles traveled, we aren’t exactly celebrating this new record.
The data from 2015 reaffirm the growing demands challenging the nation’s roads and underscore the value of the recently enacted FAST Act, which will invest $305 billion in America’s surface transportation infrastructure –including $226 billion for roads and bridges– over the next five years.
These new figures confirm the trends identified in our Beyond Traffic report, which projects a 43 percent increase in commercial truck shipments and population growth of 70 million by 2045. So, even though we have seen indications that individuals might be driving fewer miles per person, an increasing population with increasing freight demands still leads to more and more total miles traveled and more challenges on the road ahead.
This is one reason why you’ve heard Transportation Secretary Foxx emphasizing the need to innovate for greater road efficiency. Whether it’s smarter cars, smarter cities, or smarter regions, we must continue developing ways to move America beyond traffic.
This article (1-25-16) is a Sustainable Race repost, credit: US DOT.