Study: States wasting billions on highways

Study: States wasting billions on highways
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State governments are wasting $24 billion on highway projects that are unnecessary, according to a new study released Monday by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund. 

The study "details how despite America’s massive repair and maintenance backlog, and in defiance of America’s changing transportation needs, state governments continue to spend billions each year on new and wider highways," according to the group, which typically pushes for more transit investment.

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“Many state governments continue to prioritize wasteful highway projects that fail to effectively address congestion while leaving our roads and bridges to crumble,” John Olivieri, the national campaign director for 21st Century Transportation at the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, said in a statement.

“This in turn saddles future generations with massive repair and maintenance backlogs that only grow more painful and expensive to fix the longer we wait to do so,” he continued. 

The finding comes after Congress passed a five-year, $305 billion highway measure last fall. The measure, known as the Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, calls for spending approximately $205 billion on highways and $48 billion on transit projects over the next five years.

The authors of the study said state governments are too focused on using the money to build new highways, however. 

“America’s long-term travel needs are changing, especially among Millennials, who are driving fewer miles, getting driver’s licenses in fewer numbers, and expressing greater preferences to live in areas where they do not need to use a car often,” Tony Dutzik, senior policy analyst at Frontier Group, said in a statement. 

“Despite the fact that Millennials are the nation’s largest generation, and the unquestioned consumers of tomorrow’s transportation system, states are failing to adequately respond to these changing trends,” he added.

The study recommended that states "adopt fix-it-first policies that reorient transportation funding away from highway expansion and toward repair of existing roads and bridges." 

Other recommendations include investing "in transportation solutions that reduce the need for costly and disruptive highway expansion projects by improving and expanding public transit, biking, and walking options" and giving "priority to funding transportation projects that reduce the number of vehicle-miles people travel each year, thereby also reducing air pollution, carbon-emissions, and future road repair and maintenance needs." 

The full study can be read here