Politics & Government

Fewer federal highway dollars may mean more congestion nationwide

Congress may shrink its historic role as the main funding source for building highways, and officials from several states worry that the result could be crippling traffic nationwide.

"In Washington, D.C., we're hearing voices say we're done investing in highways and we can't build our way out of congestion," said John Horsley, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

On Monday, the group released a report, Transportation Reboot: Unlocking Gridlock, which says that demand for car travel is far outpacing the available space on the nation's roadways and that an infusion of new federal highway dollars is needed to avoid a level of gridlock that will choke the economies of dozens of cities.

The report identified more than 100 urgently needed road projects, including one in Texas -- U.S. 290 in Houston.

But members of Congress, who are expected to debate a five-year transportation bill this year, are showing little appetite for raising the gasoline tax or getting more funds from other sources to pay for road work, Horsley said. Even if a new revenue source is identified, the money is more likely to be spent on public transportation such as buses and rail.

"In the field of high-speed rail, President Obama is considered visionary," Horsley said during a news conference after releasing the report at the National Association of County Engineers' annual conference in Fort Worth. "In the field of transit and highways, we're still looking for that visionary leader."

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