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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The current U.S. Highway Code does not have a single performance measure that focuses on the reduction of greenhouse gases or vehicle miles traveled, but a new bill in Congress aims to establish a connection and incentivize reductions.

Why it matters: Transportation contributes 28% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Driving represents 83% of trips, and the number of miles driven is rising, posing a serious problem to curbing emissions.

What's happening: U.S. transportation funding typically prioritizes roadway expansion projects, which can reduce congestion, at least temporarily, and increase speeds.

  • Yes, but: Building and widening roads actually encourages more people to drive.
  • The Federal Highway Administration reports that vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is increasing: U.S. driving topped 1.58 trillion miles in the first half of 2018, 5.2 billion miles more than the same period the year prior.
  • Without making the reduction of VMT a clear goal built into transportation funding, this trend is likely to continue.

What's needed: A best case scenario would be for the federal government to establish a GHG emissions reduction goal for the national transportation plan.

  • Proposed projects on the federal, state and city levels would need to align with that goal to receive funding.
  • States and regional agencies could eventually be required to share a project’s performance as it relates to VMT and emissions.

What to watch: The GREEN Streets Act, introduced in July, lists combating climate change among its goals. Among other items, it would direct the transportation secretary to establish minimum standards for states to reduce GHGs on the National Highway System.

  • If passed — which is uncertain in this Congress — this bill would connect transportation and climate change via federal funding for all states.

Tiffany Chu is the COO and a co-founder of Remix, which helps cities plan transportation networks, and a commissioner at the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

Go deeper

Venezuela suspends talks with opposition after Maduro ally extradited to U.S.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela, in June. Photo: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key ally of Venezuela's President Nicolás Maduro was extradited from Cape Verde to the U.S. Saturday to face money laundering charges in Florida, Bloomberg first reported.

Why it matters: Venezuela's government called off negotiations with opposition officials that were scheduled for Sunday in Mexico in response to the extradition of Alex Saab, a Colombian businessman and financial fixer for Maduro.

3 hours ago - Health

5 times as many police officers have died from COVID as from guns since pandemic began

Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

COVID-19 is the leading cause of death for police officers even though members of law enforcement were among the first to be eligible to receive the vaccine, CNN reports, citing data from the Officer Down Memorial Page.

Why it matters: Nearly 476 police officers have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic started, compared to the 93 deaths as a result of gunfire in the same time period, according to ODMP and CNN.

Virginia energy giant quietly boosts McAuliffe

Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaks during a campaign rally on Oct. 15 in Henrico, Virginia. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Virginia Democrat Terry McAuliffe has sworn off money from the Richmond company Dominion Energy. But the utility has found more subtle ways to back McAuliffe's gubernatorial bid, records show.

Driving the news: Dominion's political action committee has donated $200,000 to a murky political group called Accountability Virginia PAC, a group with ties to prominent Democrats that's been running ads attacking Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin from the right.