It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, which means record-setting numbers of Americans will take to planes, trains and automobiles to reach their holiday destinations. Holiday travel aside, our nation set a record for cumulative vehicle miles traveled (VMT) within just the first nine months of 2016.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, Americans drove 2.4 trillion miles this year through September alone, more than any previous year. Theories behind this data include cheaper gasoline prices and an improving economy. According to AAA, U.S. drivers paid the second lowest price for gasoline over Thanksgiving weekend since 2008, an average of $2.13 a gallon. That same data reported in late November that average gas prices were below $2 per gallon in 12 states, and that U.S. drivers have saved more than $27 billion at the gas pumps so far this year compared to the same period last year.
And this year’s holiday season travel is predicted to be busy as well. AAA reports that more than 103 million Americans are predicted to travel for the holidays — the highest level on record — and 1.5 million more travelers than last year. Of that amount, 93.6 million people are expected to drive to their destinations, 6 million are expected to fly and 3.5 million will likely take other modes of transportation.
Unfortunately, these impressive VMT increases also contribute to the wear and tear of our nation’s already beleaguered roads. Even with the FAST Act investment of $226 billion over five years for roads and bridges, it’s not enough to bring surface transportation infrastructure into a good state of repair. Hopefully lawmakers can work together in the new administration to create a long-term funding solution that will restore the roads and bridges our nation increasingly relies on.