DOT: Americans drove 15 billion fewer miles in August than a year ago

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New federal data show Americans are continuing a 10-month-long decline in driving habits, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced Friday, Oct. 24. The decline is putting new pressure on the way road, bridge and transit projects are funded, showing the need for a new approach, U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters says.

In August 2008, Americans drove 15 billion fewer miles, or 5.6 percent less, than they did in August 2007 – the largest ever year-to-year decline recorded in a single month, Peters says. Over the past 10 months, Americans have driven 78 billion fewer miles than they did in the same 10 months the previous year, she says.

In September, the federal government was forced to move $8 billion to the Highway Trust Fund, which was set to run out of money by the end of the month. The Highway Trust Fund comes from the federal gasoline tax. “We pay for transit the same way we pay for road and bridge projects – with federal gas taxes,” Peters says. “Relying on the gas tax is like relying on cardboard to keep the rain out – the longer you use it, the less it works.”

To review the FHWA’s “Traffic Volume Trends” reports for August 2008, click here.