Federal Transportation Investment Benefits in the United States

How Important are Federal Highway and Public Transportation Programs to U.S. Highway, Bridge, & Transit Improvements?

  • Nationwide, between 2001 and 2011, Federal aid reimbursements represented 51.6 percent of total U.S. capital outlays  in highway and bridge improvements.
  • In 2012, federal, state, and local transportation agencies obligated $37.7 billion in federal funds for highway and bridge improvements.
  • This included $31.8 billion for more than 47,000 new projects building or improving almost 127,000 miles of road and 4,670 bridges, plus just under $6 billion for ongoing projects.
  • The federal public transportation program currently supports almost $2 billion of construction work on more than 22 major transit projects and helps hundreds of local transit agencies pay for capital purchases such as buses and facilities.

How Many Jobs are Dependent on Transportation Construction?

  • According to the Federal Highway Administration, every $1 billion of federal highway investment supports 34,779 jobs. 
  • Nationwide, nearly 2.2 million jobs are supported by spending on highway and bridge construction, including:
         - 1.07 million full-time jobs directly involved in infrastructure construction and supply 
         - 1.09 million jobs sustained by transportation construction employee and company spending.
  • Highway construction jobs are well-paid, with the average worker earning more than $41,000 per year; workers in supplier industries earn just slightly less, $40,500 per year.
  • Workers in the 2.2 million jobs supported by highway and bridge construction earn almost $82.5 billion each year.
  • Construction work on subway and light rail projects support an additional 200,000 jobs throughout the economy each year generating earnings of almost $7.5 billion.
  • There are an additional 70+ million jobs in key industries like tourism, retail sales, agriculture, and manufacturing that are dependent on the nation’s transportation infrastructure network.

How Important is a National Highway and Bridge Network to the National Economy?

  • In 2011, more than $18.9 trillion dollars worth of manufacturing and agricultural products were shipped within the United States.
  • Almost 72 percent of that total was shipped via truck by highway--only 55 percent of truck shipments were within the same state; the remaining 45 percent of truck shipments were to out of state destinations and thus dependent on the highway investment decisions of other states.

What is the Outlook for the Highway Trust Fund?

  • The Highway Trust Fund was established in 1956 to assure that taxes paid by highway users, not general taxpayers, financed federal investment in highways and bridges. Mass transit was added in 1982.
  • The main source of revenues for the Highway Trust Fund is the federal excise tax on gasoline, currently 18.3 cents per gallon, and diesel fuel, 24.3 cents per gallon. Revenues from three taxes on large trucks are also credited to the Trust Fund.
  • Highway Trust Fund revenues financed all federal highway and most transit investment until 2007, when the post-war economic recession reduced freight and truck-related revenues significantly below initial projections, resulting in the need for just over $41 billion of revenue injections in subsequent years to maintain federal highway and transit investment commitments.
  • According to the Congressional Budget Office, without congressional action, all Highway Trust Fund revenues in FY 2015 will be consumed by prior year commitments, meaning the fund will be unable to support any new highway and public transportation improvement projects next year.
  • The Highway Trust Fund would need an additional $16 billion of revenues per year through FY 2023 just to maintain existing federal highway and transit investment levels, including projected inflation. Otherwise, investment levels would have to be cut significantly, resulting in job loss and deterioration of the nation’s highways and transit systems.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation also states it will have to slow down reimbursements to state and local governments as early as July 2014 for already approved projects to preserve a positive Highway Trust Fund balance if Congress does not act to generate additional trust fund revenues.
Source: The American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA).
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