Traffic Congestion Study - Good News & Bad News

By: Mike George Email
By: Mike George Email

If you have ever driven in Houston or Dallas traffic, you don't need a study to tell you it's bad. However, an annual study shows Houston is No. 4 in terms of bad rush-hour traffic congestion across the country.

The report Wednesday from the Texas Transportation Institute says Los Angeles is first when it comes -- to being the worst. Washington was second, followed by Atlanta. The Texas Transportation Institute analyzed state and Federal Highway Administration data. While traffic in major metropolitan areas are bad, the study shows it's not as bad as in years past. A slow down in the economy can take credit for less cars on the roadways. The last time researchers saw a dip like this was in 1991 during Gulf War I.

The average U.S. driver languished in rush-hour traffic for 36.1 hours in 2007, down from 36.6 hours in 2006 and a peak of 37.4 hours in 2005. According to TTI, total wasted fuel also edged lower for the first time, from 2.85 billion gallons in 2006 to 2.81 billion, or roughly three weeks' worth of gas per traveler.

The report urged state and federal governments to act now to develop highways or mass transit, since these programs can take 10 to 15 years to complete. It said short-term fixes such as rapidly removing crashed vehicles and timing traffic signals also would help, while employers can offer flexible work hours and telecommuting to reduce travel during traditional rush hours.

The findings come as the Obama administration has signaled that it wants to keep transportation funding at current levels for 18 months, rather than move forward on a proposed six-year, $500 billion bill that would increase highway aid 40 percent and double transit funding. There are questions about how to pay for that.

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