State transportation officials are spending too much federal money on new roads and not enough on mass transit, bike trails, and other people-moving alternatives likely to reduce traffic congestion, says the Surface Transportation Policy Project.

STPP, an organization that represents community planners and public transit advocates, recently released an analysis of 360,000 federally funded transportation projects in the 1990s, which indicates that public transit’s piece of the federal funds pie is shrinking.
According to STPP, the portion of federal spending on new roads grew 21% in the past two years while spending on other transportation modes fell 19%. The study also points out that spending for road repair fell 6% in 1999, despite record federal funding.
The data, STPP says, indicates a trend reversal. From 1990 to 1999, spending on public transportation almost doubled, from about $3 billion $6 billion. Funding for bike paths and lanes, sidewalks and other facilities for walking and cycling grew from $7 million in 1990 to a whopping $222 million in 1999. The share of federal funds going to road repair grew from 39% in 1990 to 49% in 1998.
But the report also found that most states continue to spend their “flexible” federal transportation dollars on roads, even though federal law lets them channel that money to other transportation needs. Less than 7% of this money has gone to funding buses, trains, bikeways, or sidewalks, STPP says.