Congestion price tag: $87.2 billion

| 7/13/2009

Everyone can relate to traffic congestion, but when added up, the numbers are staggering.

Congestion caused Americans to spend an extra 4.2 billion hours on the roads and forced them to buy 2.8 billion extra gallons of fuel, according to the authors of the Texas Transportation Institute’s 2009 Urban Mobility Report.

The total economic impact of congestion was $87.2 billion in 2007, up about $100 million from 2006.

Trucking and the economic effects of delayed delivery times played a significant role in the findings, authors said.

Congestion might have been even greater in 2007 if it weren’t for high prices of diesel fuel and gasoline.

“While traffic congestion has eased somewhat, it remains a significant issue for the transportation industry, especially in urban areas,” said Thomas Brahms, executive director and CEO of the Institute of Transportation Engineers, in the report summary.

The authors studied 439 metropolitan areas to make their determinations.

The average individual “wasted” 36 hours in traffic and 24 gallons of fuel in 2007. Truckers who buy their own fuel, who are paid by the mile, and who are subject to on-time deliveries have little choice but to get caught in urban rush hours, which pads the averages.

The report does offer possible solutions to congestion problems.

“One cost-effective method to address the issue is to update traffic signal timing for pedestrian and vehicular traffic while updating traffic signal infrastructure to use more energy-efficient components,” Brahms stated.

“These transportation investments can be underway quickly and yield lasting improvements to the nation’s economic productivity, infrastructure and environment beginning immediately.”

The report states that most people believe higher fuel prices are not the answer to solving congestion problems.

According to the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, trucks make up less than 10 percent of the traffic but foot 36 percent of the bill for infrastructure through taxes and fees.

OOIDA favors the responsible spending of Highway Trust Fund dollars and the expansion of highway capacity.

– By David Tanner, staff writer