U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released the final Beyond Traffic 2045 report highlighting transportation challenges the United States will face over the next three decades. The report finds that the U.S. transportation system, and the current planning and funding mechanisms, will not meet the demands presented by trends, including population growth, climate change and new technologies like driverless cars.
“Beyond Traffic started a long-overdue conversation about whether our transportation infrastructure will keep pace with our changing country,” said Secretary Foxx. “The final report again shows that if we do not invest in our infrastructure, we will let conditions move us backwards.”
Beyond Traffic 2045 was the product of more than two years of research and study by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). A draft of the report, published in February 2015, was downloaded over 500,000 times from the DOT website, and the agency received thousands of comments from the public through workshops, webinars and online feedback. Secretary Foxx and DOT leaders also held public meetings in 11 cities across the country in late 2015 to explore the challenges facing each of the emerging megaregions.
The report is a comprehensive study of the major trends that will shape our nation’s transportation system over the next 30 years. The report looks at broader trends, such as population growth and increasing freight volume, as well as issues of economic opportunity, transportation funding and emerging technologies, to identify the key transportation challenges that the United States will face.
Questions and trends explored in Beyond Traffic 2045 include:
- How we move—America’s population is expected to grow by 70 million by 2045, and by 2050, three-quarters of Americans could live in 11 emerging mega-regions—larger geographic clusters in spanning multiple cities and communities.
- How we move things—Freight volume is expected to increase by more than 40%, partly driven online shopping, adding extra demand to our transportation networks.
- How we adapt—Predicted rises in global temperatures and mean sea levels, and more frequent and intense storm events, could drastically affect highways, bridges, public transportation, coastal ports and waterways.
- How we move better—Automation and robotics will affect all modes of transportation, improving infrastructure maintenance and travel safety, and enabling the mainstream use of autonomous vehicles.
- How we grow opportunity—Middle- and low-income American households spend, on average, nearly 20% of their income on transportation and 40% on housing—higher shares than for wealthier Americans.
- How we align decisions and dollars—Federal gasoline tax revenues have failed to keep up with our transportation needs and could decline further as vehicle fuel efficiency improves, and inflation further erodes purchasing power.
As the title suggests, one of the key issues examined in Beyond Traffic 2045 is the cost of increasing traffic congestion. It finds that the average American driver in a city or a suburb will spend an entire work week sitting in traffic, the annual cost of congestion delays and lost fuel is $160 billion, and that truck congestion alone will cost $28 billion in wasted time and fuel this year.
In his introduction to the report, Secretary Foxx outlines three strategies that need to be employed to ensure that America is able to meet the challenges of the next thirty years: take better care of our legacy transportation systems to keep our roads, bridges and ports in good repair; fund and prioritize new projects based on future projections, not outdated models of how people moved in the past; and use technologies and better design approaches that will allow us to maximize the use of our old and new transportation assets.
DOT Designates Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers
In conjunction with the release of Beyond Traffic 2045, Secretary Foxx designated 18 Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers across the country to lead research on the transportation challenges outlined in the report. The centers are non-profit institutions of higher education and non-profit organizations that convene leaders and other key decision-makers in each of the 11 mega-regions around the United States, as well as in rural communities, to discuss these challenges and coordinate related research, curriculum, outreach and other activities.
The Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers are:
- Cascadia/Pacific Northwest mega-region: University of Washington
- Florida mega-region: Florida International University
- Front Range mega-region: University of Denver
- Great Lakes/Midwest mega-region: Center for Neighborhood Technology, Ohio State University and University of Michigan
- Gulf Coast mega-region: Texas Southern University
- Northeastern mega-region: Northeastern University and Rutgers University
- Mid-Atlantic mega-region: University of Virginia
- Northern California mega-region: University of California, Berkeley
- Southern California mega-region: California State University, San Bernardino
- Piedmont/Southern mega-region: Clemson University
- Sun Corridor mega-region: University of Arizona
- Texas Triangle mega-region: University of Texas, Austin
- Centers serving rural areas: Montana State University, University of Alaska—Fairbanks and Michigan Tech University
The full list of Beyond Traffic Innovation Centers and more information about Beyond Traffic 2045 is available at www.transportation.gov/beyondtraffic.