Increased Traffic Congestion Threatens To Put Brakes on US Economic Growth

July 1, 2001
The Road Information Program (TRIP) has issued a report, Stuck in Traffic, showing that increased traffic congestion could hamper the United States' economic

The Road Information Program (TRIP) has issued a report, Stuck in Traffic, showing that increased traffic congestion could hamper the United States' economic prosperity and result in higher costs to consumers and motorists.

William M Wilkins, TRIP executive director, said, “Increasing traffic congestion makes it more difficult and more expensive to move goods from manufacturing and service centers, ports, and rail depots to the rest of the country.”

The report also shows that costs to individual motorists in the nation's largest urban areas are going up, rising 39% during the 1990s to $625 per person in the nation's largest urban areas. The TRIP analysis of individual costs to motorists is based on data released by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI).

TTI data show that traffic congestion now costs US motorists $78 billion in wasted time and fuel. In addition, Wilkins said the average vehicle trip in urban areas now takes 26% longer during rush hour, and 27% of US urban freeways are congested.

Wilkins also said failure to provide traffic congestion relief could adversely affect decisions made by businesses and industries in determining where they will locate.

Other data in the TRIP report include:

  • 72% of the estimated $7 trillion worth of goods shipped from sites nationwide is transported on trucks. An additional 12% is transported by courier services, bringing the total to 84% of all goods shipped that travel over roads.

  • The $54 billion a year to be spent on road construction in 2001 is expected to produce $308 billion in benefits, based on a Department of Transportation report showing that the average benefit for each $1 spent on road construction is $5.70.

  • From 1980 to 2000, US Gross Domestic Product increased 86%. At the same time, highway travel increased 76% — with the two showing similar rates of increase year by year.

  • Freight shipments are expected to double in most parts of the nation over the next 20 years. Trucks are projected to carry 82% of the new total amount of tonnage.

  • Traffic delays per person resulting from traffic congestion increased 236% from 1982 to 2000. Highway travel during that time increased 72%, and our nation's population grew 19%. At the same time, new road mileage grew only 6%.

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