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Study: US drivers traveled 3tn miles in 2010

Drivers traveled the greatest numbers of miles in 2010 since 2007, according to a study by the Department of Transportation. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the increase confirms the need for infrastructure around the country.

US drivers travelled 3 trillion miles in 2010, the greatest number of miles since 2007, according to a study by the US Department of Transportation. 

“More driving means more wear and tear on our nation's roads and bridges,” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement, urging that the data confirms the need for more investment in the country’s 60 year-old road system.

The traffic study is the latest report from the Department of Transportation to suggest that the US transport sector is recovering from the 2008 financial crisis and lingering recession.

Last month, the Department of Transportation published preliminary statistics showing that freight rail, passenger rail and combined transportation services posted increases in 2010, following declines in the two years prior.

The latest traffic data comes from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) monthly traffic volume studies, which collect information from about four thousand counting locations across the country.

The total number of miles traveled represents only a small increase of about 0.7 percent over the previous year, but it is still a sharp departure from the overall decreases in traffic in the past few years. FHWA statistics indicate a sharp drop-off in traffic volumes beginning in 2007, when the most recent recession began.

The study said the South Gulf area, covering the region between Texas and Kentucky, experienced the greatest regional increase, and the state of Nebraska represented the largest single-state increase.

A study by free market think tank Reason Foundation released in September of estimated that traffic in 2008 fell 3.5 percent from 2007 levels.

The Reason Foundation argued that the lower traffic volumes had actually slowed the natural deterioration of US roads, but also pointed out that lower volumes automatically diminish money available for repairs due to diminishing fuel tax receipts.

President Barack Obama has highlighted infrastructure spending in his proposed 2012 budget, which called for a  $556 billion, six-year reauthorisation of surface transportation legislation.

Obama also proposed a $50 billion “boost” for railways, runways and highways in the upcoming year. Of that, Obama requested that $25 billion be given to FHWA to distribute to states for “critical highway infrastructure” improvements, according to the budget request.