The effect of higher fuel prices is obvious in a report Monday by the U.S. Transportation Department showing that almost 10 billion fewer miles were driven in May 2008 than in May 2007. Thatís a dramatic turnaround, especially since the month of May usually brings a surge in vehicle traffic as the summer vacation season kicks off.

Itís the third steepest monthly decline since records have been kept.

Itís a good news-bad news situation. The resulting drop in demand is one factor - perhaps a major factor - in a significant drop in the retail price of gasoline last week, a welcome development for motorists. But the down side is that a drop in miles driven means that less money is going into the Highway Trust Fund. Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said the data provides evidence that the way America funds its infrastructure needs to shift toward other, sustainable forms of revenue.

Critics will counter that using all that revenue for its intended purpose, and distributing it fairly, would be a good start.

But the bottom line remains, that perhaps drastic changes in American society are under way, and those will touch most areas of life.

Brownwood Bulletin