At a time when highway infrastructure is already facing challenges such as the rising costs of concrete and steel, a change in driving habits is causing a major reduction in available funds.
"A report to be released Monday by the Transportation Department shows that over the past seven months, Americans have reduced their driving by more than 40 billion miles. Because of high gasoline prices, they drove 3.7% fewer miles in May than they did a year earlier, the report says, more than double the 1.8% drop-off seen in April.
The cutback furthers many U.S. policy goals, such as reducing oil consumption and curbing emissions. But, coupled with a rapid shift away from gas-guzzling vehicles, it also means consumers are paying less in federal fuel taxes, which go largely to help finance highway and mass-transit systems. As a result, many such projects may have to be pared down or eliminated.
The challenge comes at a time when surging costs for asphalt and other construction materials already are straining state and local transportation budgets. Those cost increases make it more expensive to maintain the nation's roads, bridges and rail networks."