Government Issues

Current planning, funding won't meet future transportation demands: report

Posted on January 10, 2017

Indianapolis Transit Center. Photo: Axis Architecture and Interiors
Indianapolis Transit Center. Photo: Axis Architecture and Interiors

The U.S. transportation system, and the current planning and funding mechanisms, will not meet the demands presented by trends including population growth, climate change, and new technologies like driverless cars, according to a new federal report. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on Monday, released the final Beyond Traffic 2045 report highlighting transportation challenges the U.S. will face over the next three decades.
“Beyond Traffic started a long overdue conversation about the whether our transportation infrastructure will keep pace with our changing country,” said Secretary Foxx. “The final report again shows that if we do not invest in our infrastructure, we will let conditions move us backwards.”
Beyond Traffic 2045 was the product of more than two years of research and study by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT). Secretary Foxx and U.S. DOT leaders also held public meetings in eleven cities across the country in late 2015 to explore the challenges facing each of the emerging megaregions.

The report is a comprehensive study of the major trends that will shape our nation’s transportation system over the next thirty years. The report looks at broader trends, such as population growth and increasing freight volume, as well as issues of economic opportunity, transportation funding, and emerging technologies, to identify the key transportation challenges that the U.S. will face.
Questions and trends explored in Beyond Traffic 2045 include:

  • How we move – America’s population is expected to grow by 70 million by 2045, and by 2050, three-quarters of Americans could live in eleven emerging megaregions – larger geographic clusters in spanning multiple cities and communities.
  • How we move things – Freight volume is expected to increase by more than 40 percent, partly driven online shopping, adding extra demand to our transportation networks.
  • How we adapt – Predicted rises in global temperatures and mean sea levels, and more frequent and intense storm events, could drastically affect highways, bridges, public transportation, coastal ports, and waterways.
  • How we move better – Automation and robotics will affect all modes of transportation, improving infrastructure maintenance and travel safety, and enabling the mainstream use of autonomous vehicles.
  • How we grow opportunity – Middle- and low-income American households spend, on average, nearly 20% of their income on transportation and 40% on housing — higher shares than for wealthier Americans.
  • How we align decisions and dollars – Federal gasoline-tax revenues have failed to keep up with our transportation needs and could decline further as vehicle fuel efficiency improves, and inflation further erodes purchasing power.

As the title suggests, one of the key issues examined in Beyond Traffic 2045 is the cost of increasing traffic congestion. It finds that the average American driver in a city or a suburb will spend an entire work week sitting in traffic, the annual cost of congestion delays and lost fuel is $160 billion, and that truck congestion alone will cost $28 billion in wasted time and fuel this year.
In his introduction to the report, Secretary Foxx outlines three strategies that need to be employed to ensure that America is able to meet the challenges of the next 30 years:

  • Take better care of our legacy transportation systems to keep our roads, bridges, and ports in good repair.
  • Fund and prioritize new projects based on future projections, not outdated models of how people moved in the past.
  • Use technologies and better design approaches that will allow us to maximize the use of our old and new transportation assets.

DOT Designates Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers
In conjunction with the release of Beyond Traffic 2045, Secretary Foxx designated 18 Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers across the country to lead research on the transportation challenges outlined in the report. The centers are non-profit institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations, which convene leaders and other key decision-makers in each of eleven megaregions around the U.S., as well as in rural communities, to discuss these challenges and coordinate related research, curriculum, outreach, and other activities.
Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers:

  • Cascadia/Pacific Northwest megaregion: University of Washington
  • Florida megaregion: Florida International University
  • Front Range megaregion: University of Denver
  • Great Lakes/Midwest megaregion: Center for Neighborhood Technology, Ohio State University and University of Michigan
  • Gulf Coast megaregion: Texas Southern University
  • Northeastern megaregion: Northeastern University and Rutgers University
  • Mid-Atlantic megaregion: University of Virginia
  • Northern California megaregion: University of California, Berkeley
  • Southern California megaregion: California State University, San Bernardino
  • Piedmont/Southern megaregion: Clemson University
  • Sun Corridor megaregion: University of Arizona
  • Texas Triangle megaregion: University of Texas, Austin
  • Centers serving rural areas: Montana State University, University of Alaska-Fairbanks, and Michigan Tech University

The full list of Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers and more information about Beyond Traffic 2045 is available at:

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