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Fewer miles, fewer dollars

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An interesting bit of information from the Transportation Department: Americans drove 100 billion fewer miles in 2008 than in 2007. That’s the biggest decline in American history. (The news may come as a surprise to Washington-area residents — traffic hasn’t gotten any better around here!)

It’s good news for the environment, but bad for the department, which depends largely on revenue from gas taxes to pay for highways and bridges. The Highway Trust Fund collected $3 billion less in 2008 than it did in 2007.

And it underscores a key problem facing our transportation policy. Washington wants more fuel-efficient vehicles, and that’s a laudable goal for many reasons. But how do we continue funding our transportation infrastructure when that funding depends on gasoline taxes?

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