With over four million miles of roads crisscrossing the United States, from 15 lane interstates to residential streets, roads are among the most visible and familiar forms of infrastructure. In 2016 alone, U.S. roads carried people and goods 3.2 trillion miles—or more than 300 round trips between Earth and Pluto. After a slight dip during the 2008 recession, Americans are driving more and vehicle miles travelled hit a record high in 2016.
With more traffic on the roads, it is no surprise that America’s congestion problem is getting worse, but adding additional lanes or new roads to the highway system will not solve congestion on its own. More than two out of every five miles of the nation’s urban interstates are congested. Of the country’s 100 largest metro areas, all but five saw increased traffic congestion from 2013 to 2014. In 2014, Americans spent 6.9 billion hours delayed in traffic—42 hours per driver. All of that sitting in traffic wasted 3.1 billion gallons of fuel. The lost time and wasted fuel add up—the total cost of congestion in 2014 was $160 billion.