Where State Transportation Money Goes

A new state-by-state analysis shows just how transportation dollars are spent.

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Reuters

Transportation funding is complex. Literally trillions of dollars are constantly at work or on the boards for one thing or another. The type of spending ranges from building overpasses to laying light rail tracks to painting those white-line bicycle riders on the asphalt in bike lanes. And so much more.

Trying to define exactly where every transportation dollar in the U.S. goes is probably more effort than it's worth. Understanding generally where that money goes, however, is both doable and informative. A new report has tracked the spending priorities of each state, as laid out in their state transportation improvement programs (STIP).

"Tracking State Transportation Dollars" was produced by the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, building off its annual analysis of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. This comprehensive look at the STIPs of all 50 states gives a nice overview of the nation's transportation priorities. Each state is federally mandated to produce a STIP, which identifies how each state is planning to use its federal transportation funding. The STIP generally covers about four years of transportation investment priorities, though some states plan out a bit more.

In general, roads and bridges make up the bulk of all transportation spending. As this pie graph shows, 39 percent of funding is spent on projects that maintain roads and bridges, 23 percent on projects that add new capacity to roads and bridges, 20 percent on transit and 2 percent on bicycle/pedestrian projects.

That's one way to look at it. More specifically, the analysis breaks down spending for each state into nine main categories. In the chart below, we've combined all funding for every state (except Wisconsin, which was not yet available) and then divided it up into those nine categories.

Through this lens, transit investments are the most significant, but of course that's because non-transit-focused spending is spread across a few different categories. Automobile infrastructure still accounts for most spending.

*A previous version of this article included a chart with some incorrect data referring to investments in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. The chart has been updated.

Photo credit: Mike Stone / Reuters

About the Author

  • Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for CityLab. He lives in Los Angeles.