The major challenges facing the U.S. transportation system include:
- reducing major injuries and fatalities
- climate change
- crumbling facilities
Major injuries and fatalities from motor vehicle accidents are on the rise, including accident trends for commercial vehicles. Since 2009, fatalities from accidents involving large trucks and buses have increased by 38% and continue to rise.
Climate change is on everyone’s mind, and rightly so. Drought conditions have caused a major impact on agriculture and have left many lakes, rivers, and other inland bodies of water at all-time lows. Weather highs and lows continue to swing further from normal, exacerbating the drought conditions and adding to our use of energy resources for heating and cooling. Working toward zero emissions is a must.
Roadway congestion continues to grow as do the costs to the economy. Current estimates are that congestion costs the economy more than $165 billion each year in lost productivity and wasted fuel. Transportation planning focuses on expanding highways, but this is largely unsustainable and cost ineffective. Mass transportation needs to be forefront in planning, offering affordable and accessible transportation options to for individuals to reduce highway congestion.
Many infrastructure assets, including major highways, public transit, and passenger rail systems have come to or are approaching the end of their useful life and need to be repaired, rebuilt, or completely replaced. The need to address growth, especially to economically challenged areas, continues to fall further and further behind in maintenance.
COVID and Transportation
The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency of federal investments in infrastructure to help stimulate the economic and address supply chain issues. The new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is a great start, however, current policy and program structures need reforms to ensure that federal investments are equitable, sustainable, and targeted to communities facing the greatest need. We don’t need to simply throw money at the problem, we need to invest that money wisely and with the future in mind. The Department of Transportation needs to use its authority to repair existing facilities, promote healthy living environments, and improve safe and affordable transportation access.