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Road Congestion Wasting Time – and 1.9 Bil Gallons of Gas

Total cost is over $100 billion annually.

by on Mar.26, 2012

Traffic congestion is costing Americans over $100 billion a year, reports a new study.

Worsening road congestion is wasting plenty of time and money – especially when you consider the rising cost of gas.

A new study by the U.S. Treasury Department finds that traffic snarls wasted 1.9 billion gallons of fuel last year — about 5% of the gas American motorists used.  At the current price, that would work out to more than $7 billion nationwide.  Other recent studies have indicated that Americans collectively waste about 5 billion hours in traffic, meanwhile, which works out to billions of dollars more in lost productivity.

In all, the study – prepared in support of the White House effort to upgrade the nation’s highway infrastructure – suggests the total cost in time and money works out to about $100 billion a year.

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The cost of poor quality roads, meanwhile, results in about $400 in added yearly maintenance costs for the typical urban driver.  That runs as high as $756 annually for a motorist in the metropolitan San Jose areas, according to the report.

The Obama Administration is hoping that the report will hope get members of the House of Representatives to finally act on a federal highway bill that has been stalled on Capitol Hill.  The Senate has already passed a two-year measure that will fund infrastructure and transportation programs – and allow the government to continue collecting federal fuel taxes.

House Republicans, however, have been pressing for a five-year, $260 billion measure – but it has so far failed to win enough support.  If the House fails to act – or if the two sides of the Hill fail to come up with a compromise – before the end of the month all federal highway and transportation programs could come to a halt.  Even fuel tax collection would be stopped.  By some estimates, the impact could be as much as 2 million jobs.

House Speaker John Boehner has shifted his position to support the Senate measure but it is unclear whether he can sway enough of his fellow GOP lawmakers.

But there is growing pressure to reach that compromise.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, says the Treasury Department report is “the latest reminder that it’s time to stop the partisan bickering in Washington and invest in our nation’s infrastructure.”

The study reveals that:

  • Nine out of 10 Americans spend $1 out of every $7 they earn on transportation;
  • Simply to repair the crumbling U.S. bridge and roadway infrastructure will require an annual $85 billion in spending over the next 20 years;
  • Yet the U.S. spends less on transportation infrastructure than the majority of other major economies, such as Britain and Germany.  For the U.S., it is just 2% of GDP compared to 5% in Europe.  Fast-growing China is currently investing 9%, though that includes a push to create a roadway infrastructure.

The study also reports that the use of highway ridership soared to 10.4 billion paid trips last year, up from about 8 billion in 1996.  The vast majority of that growth has come on light and heavy rail systems.

Ironically, the impact of traffic congestion might have been worse had it not been for the recession, which has seen millions of Americans thrown out of work.  A separate study by Texas A&M University found that the number of hours Americans lost to traffic snarls slipped from a record 5.2 billion hours in 2007 – before the wholesale collapse of the economy – to just 4.6 billion the year after.  The figure has only slowly been rising again as the economy recovers.

On a personal level, the study found the average American losing more than 30 hours annually to traffic congestion, with the figure rising to more than 70 hours in cities like L.A., Washington, D.C., and Chicago.

Transport Bill Trapped in House After Senate OK

Lawmakers under pressure to avert catastrophic shutdown.

by on Mar.15, 2012

The bill passed by the Senate would reportedly "maintain or create" 2.8 million jobs.

In a rare show of bipartisan support, especially as the presidential election nears, the U.S. Senate gave solid approval to a long-delayed federal transportation bill that covers everything from highway construction to the collection of gas taxes.

Capitol Hill lawmakers have been struggling since 2009 to come up with an update to the law, and the 74-22 vote actually just authorized another 2-year extension that would funnel $109 million into everything from road repairs to mass transit programs.  But even that compromise might not make it into law, Washington observers warn – adding that millions of jobs are at stake.

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The House of Representatives, led by Speak John Boehner, R-Ohio, has been struggling to approve its own transport bill – to no avail.  And even though the Republican speaker now says he’d be willing to consider the Senate’s language it is uncertain he can rein in enough of his own party members to push the extension through.

“If there was ever a piece of legislation that should not turn into a partisan fight, this is it,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).