Report Offers Ways to Make Federal Transportation Investment More Productive

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Now that the FAST Act has provided five years of certain funding for surface transportation programs, it’s time for Congress to once again turn to the important work of finding a long-term, sustainable funding solution for the Highway Trust Fund. A guaranteed funding source is key to allowing states to effectively plan and execute transportation projects. To aid in this process, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released last week a report titled “Approaches to Making Federal Highway Spending More Productive.”

The report points out that federal investment in highways does not correlate accordingly with how roads are used. It also finds that federal road funding has been based primarily on formula grants, not taking into account the amount of travel on roads. It goes on to say that while maintaining existing capacity is becoming increasingly more important, investment has not shifted accordingly. The CBO also offers how the federal funding could be more productive and suggests three approaches for Congress to consider, including:

  • Charging drivers directly for road use more often, including based on traffic congestion
  • Allocating funding to states based on the costs and benefits of specific projects
  • Linking investment to performance measures on congestion and road quality


The recommendations are another reminder of the insolvency of the Highway Trust Fund and the need to find a long-term, sustainable funding source for the federal surface transportation program. Having these conversation early and often will be crucial to put Congress on a path to find a long-term sustainable funding solution to #FixTheTrustFund before the FAST Act expires.

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