Researchers say traffic congestion wastes 2.9 billion gallons of fuel

| 9/18/2007

A study by the Texas Transportation Institute states that the amount of fuel wasted in traffic congestion amounts to 2.9 billion gallons each year – and it’s only getting worse.

The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and its chairman, Rep. James Oberstar, D-MN, discussed the findings of the institute’s 2007 Urban Mobility Report at a press conference Tuesday, Sept. 18.

“There is no ‘magic’ technology or solution on the horizon because there is no single cause of congestion,” study author Tim Lomax, researcher at the Texas Transportation Institute, stated in a press release.

A number of possible solutions, when implemented together, could put a dent in the congestion problem, he said.

Possible solutions include maximizing the service of existing infrastructure; adding roads and transit systems in critical corridors; relieving chokepoints; altering traffic usage patterns; providing choices; diversifying development; and keeping expectations realistic.

Researchers said congestion causes a $78-billion drain on the U.S. economy in 437 defined urban areas – amounting to an average annual cost of $710 per traveler.

The 2007 mobility report is based on data compiled in 2005.

The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s press conference was scheduled to draw attention to the problems and the solutions outlined in the report.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, namely the Federal Highway Administration, has several existing programs and grants designed to use tolling and “congestion pricing” to ease traffic woes.

In August, FHWA officials handed out $848 million in grants to the cities of New York, San Francisco, Seattle, Miami and Minneapolis to – among other things – study congestion pricing and transit routes.

Congestion relief is also a component of the proposed FHWA “Corridors of the Future” program designed to add capacity, and most likely tolls, to new or existing interstates.

FHWA has several other programs where congestion is mentioned among necessary criteria for states to toll interstates.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters continues to promote tolls, privatization and congestion pricing.

“We’re never going to solve congestion with higher federal gas taxes or additional earmarks,” she stated in a press release. “Instead, we need fresh approaches like new technology, congestion pricing and greater private sector investment to get Americans moving again.”

– By David Tanner, staff writer