Billions Spent on Roads, Transit Projects Are Often Based on Optimistic Forecasts

Transportation planners are looking for ways to improve their travel forecasts as Congress debates spending billions of dollars on new projects.

If lawmakers enact the roughly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill—of which $550 billion would be new spending above existing levels—now before the House, state and local officials will have to decide which projects to spend money on. But researchers have found that transportation planners frequently expect more people to use their road and transit projects than ultimately do so. Yet those optimistic forecasts become part of the justification for spending millions or billions of dollars on such projects.