As Americans drove less, federal gas taxes and other revenue flowing into the Highway Trust Fund fell by $3 billion in fiscal year 2008, compared with the sum collected the year before, the Dept. of Transportation reported.

DOT said on Nov. 19 that the trust fund took in $31 billion in fiscal 2008, down 8.8% from the $34 billion collected in the previous year. As income dropped, 2008 spending from the trust fund on highway and transit projects rose by $2 billion, compared with 2007's level.

DOT also said that vehicle miles traveled continued to fall, declining 4.4% in September, compared with the total for the same month last year. That marks the 11th-consecutive month in which VMT dipped from the 2007 levels.

This year's falloff in highway travel, and resulting dip in trust-fund income, threatened to push the fund's highway account into a deficit by Sept. 30. That crisis was averted when Congress approved, and President Bush signed, a bill authorizing an $8-billion shift to the trust fund from the general fund.

The infusion pushed the account into the black, but it's unclear how long it will stay there. Peters said that if VMT keeps heading downward, the trust fund may see another shortfall sooner than expected. She reiterated her call to Congress to make major changes in how surface transportation is financed.

The trust fund's main revenue sources are the 18.4¢-per-gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4¢-per-gal. levy on diesel fuel. Other components are taxes on gasohol, special fuels such as liquefied petroleum ga, plus taxes on truck tires and sales of heavy trucks and trailers.