Where Should the Highway Trust Funds Go?

In collaberation with, National Journal is bringing planners into the debate over transportation policy and funding on their transportation blog. Today’s question:

Transportation sources contribute 30 percent of U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, and road congestion is a large and growing problem in many urban areas. Yet the Highway Trust Fund is facing a severe cash crunch, and state transportation departments are worried that there won’t be enough money for highways and mass transit. Should the next surface transportation bill allow states and municipalities to use a greater share of scarce Trust Fund dollars on non-highway projects such as bike lanes and pedestrian walkways?

I add my 2 cents worth along with other regular contributors to Planetizen’s blog Interchange. My response starts out:

No. Highway Trust Fund money should be used for projects that meaningfully increase mobility in a cost effective way. While some non-road projects might qualify, bikeways and pedestrian walkways probably don’t for three reasons.

First, the Highway Trust Fund generates revenues for transportation programs that improve mobility on a broad level. The Fund was not intended, nor should revenues be diverted, to fund environmental programs. While the environmental impacts of publicly funded projects should be considered when evaluating these projects, they should be secondary considerations and not primary ones.

You might be surprised at the variation among the responses from planners. Not all of them believe that funds should siphoned off to bikeways and pedestrian walkways.

My recent Planetizen blog columns can be found here.