The Cost of Congressional Inaction toward Transportation Infrastructure: American Dollars, Jobs and Lives

Lost Dollars:

  • From Savings: The savings Americans are enjoying because of low gas prices are being wiped away because of repairs needed from potholes and accidents from poor road conditions. The average person is currently paying $8 a month in federal fuel user fee. For this amount they have access to the nation’s Interstates, urban and rural highways, — literally hundreds of thousands of miles – and improved public transit services. Meanwhile, per household, the cost of deficient surface transportation is $1,060 per year.1
  • From Congestion: Forty-four percent of America’s major urban highways are congested. Traffic congestion costs American motorists $121 billion a year in wasted time and fuel costs.2
  • From Trucks Stuck in Traffic: Furthermore, congestion on the Interstate System alone costs freight trucks more than 141 million hours in wasted time, equivalent to 51,000 drivers sitting idle for a working year. 3
  • In Productivity: Commutes between home and work are longer than ever before, and the average American spends 38 hours each year stuck in traffic. In 2011, those numbers added up to a total of 5.5 billion hours and 2.9 billion gallons of gas for Americans stuck in traffic. Those numbers are projected to rise to 8.4 billion hours and 4.5 billion gallons in 2020.4
  • From Rising Product Prices: Congestion slows the movement of food and merchandise. It raises prices and erodes the bottom line. Particularly susceptible to congestion: “the long and often vulnerable supply chains of high-value, time-sensitive commodities…Congestion results in enormous costs to shippers, carriers, and the economy.”5
    • “Nike spends an additional $4 million per week to carry an extra 7 to 14 days of inventory to compensate for shipping delays.
    • Freight bottlenecks on highways throughout the United States cause more than 243 million hours of delay to truckers annually.
    • At a delay cost of $26.70 per hour, the conservative value used by the FHWA’s Highway Economic Requirements System model for estimating national highway costs and benefits, these bottlenecks cost truckers about $6.5 billion per year.”
  • In the Overall Economy: Congress’s inaction to fix the Highway Trust Fund is taking a direct hit on the US economy. Especially with the rising costs of our infrastructure, U.S. GDP will under perform by $897 billion. If underinvestment continues at this rate, U.S. exports would drop by $28 billion; 79 of 93 tradable commodities would be impacted).6
  • Congress has borrowed more than $64 billion since 2008 from non-transportation specific sources.7
  • If the Highway Trust Fund is not fixed, the average American family would earn $700 less per year.8

Lost Jobs:

  • $1 billion invested in highway construction supports 27,800 jobs. This includes approximately 9,500 in construction sector, 4,300 jobs industries supporting construction, 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.9
  • DOT officials in 35 states had publicly stated their state programs would be impacted by a shutdown of federal surface transportation funds. In fact, nine states retracted or delayed projects in 2014 totaling over $366 million due to uncertainty about future federal investment.10
  • This would stop thousands of construction projects across the nation endangering hundreds of thousands of jobs in construction, manufacturing, and supporting industries. In fact, 877,000 jobs are at risk if Congress doesn’t act now to fill the Highway Trust Fund.11
  • Another 234,000 would exist only if many more workers would agree to paycuts.12

Lost Lives:

  • Roadway conditions are a significant factor in approximately one-third of traffic fatalities. There were 32,719 traffic fatalities in 2013 in the U.S. A total of 165,340 people died on U.S. highways from 2009 through 2013.13
  • The national traffic fatality rate is 1.09 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles of travel. The fatality rate on the nation’s rural roads is disproportionately higher than that on all other roads (2.20 fatalities per 100 million miles of travel vs. 0.75).14
  • Concern over pedestrian fatalities and injuries often drove communities to consider redesigning their roads– where nationally a pedestrian is killed every two hours, and one in five is age 65 or over.15
  • Motor vehicle crashes cost the U.S. $230 billion per year, $819 for each resident, in medical costs, lost productivity, travel delays workplace costs, insurance costs and legal costs.16
  • Where appropriate, highway improvements such as removing or shielding obstacles, adding or improving medians, widening lanes and shoulders, upgrading roads from two lanes to four lanes, and improving road markings and traffic signals can reduce traffic fatalities and accidents and improve traffic flow to help relieve congestion.17
  • According to a study conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, $100 million spent on highway safety improvements will save 145 lives over a 10-year period.18


Source List:

  1. American Society of Civil Engineers
  2. Trip National Fact Sheet
  3. AAA, ATA and U.S. Chamber Letter to Congress
  4. AAA, ATA and U.S. Chamber Letter to Congress; Texas A&M Urban Mobility Report
  5. S. DOT C&P Report
  6. Fix the Trust Fund
  7. Making America Stronger, AAA
  8. Fix the Trust Fund
  9. Federal Highway Administration, 2012
  10. ARTBA HTF Uncertainty Report
  11. AAA Highway Trust Fund resources
  12. Fix the Trust Fund
  13. Trip National Fact Sheet
  14. Trip National Fact Sheet
  15. AARP
  16. Trip National Fact Sheet
  17. Trip National Fact Sheet
  18. Trip National Fact Sheet


Click on a yellow state for regional ATM content