Congestion slowing movement of goods and people, study says

| 1/17/2003

As Congress wrestles to fund the nation's highways, a report released Jan. 17 says congestion on interstate highways is hurting the system's capacity to move people and goods.

Travel on the nation's 45,000 miles of interstate highway increased by 37 percent from 1991 to 2001, according to The Road Information Program (TRIP), a non-profit Washington, DC, group supported by the transportation industry.

The study lists the five states with the busiest interstates as California, Maryland, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Washington. The TRIP report, drawn from Federal Highway Administration data, predicts traffic on the interstate system will increase 42 percent over the next two decades. Truck traffic is expected to grow 54 percent.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK), chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said the report highlights difficult issues, as reported by USA Today.

Congress must reauthorize long-term funding for transportation this year. Young said funding must increase $31 billion to $40 billion a year "just to maintain the system as it is today."

"The big rub is where are we going to find the money," Young said.

New funding could come from an increase in the federal fuel tax, now 18.4 cents a gallon, or from a greater use of cash reserves in the federal highway trust fund. That fund finances road building and repair with fuel-tax revenue.

The TRIP report had some good news. It said the condition of the interstate system had shown improvements in the past five years – for example, the condition of interstate bridges has improved, and the amount of interstate miles listed in poor condition dropped from 27 percent in 1996 to 16 percent in 2001.