- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 17, 2002

Commuters in and around the District waste nearly two days each year stuck in traffic, according to a regional analysis.
The Potomac Index, released yesterday by the Greater Washington Board of Trade, also found that those in the jams are for the most part well-paid and well-educated.
The Potomac Index is a wide-ranging survey and analysis of statistical trends, and attempts to measure such tangible things as income levels and the high school dropout rate, as well as more abstract issues such as civic engagement.
According to the Brookings Institution's Alice M. Rivlin, who helped prepare the study and once ran the District's financial control board, the area is home to a strong economy in "position for future growth." She said the numbers show a highly educated and well-paid population whose incomes saw large increases across all racial and class lines during the past decade.
But the news wasn't all good.
The study says people spend an average of 46 hours a year stuck in traffic, and two-thirds say it negatively impacts their quality of life. According to the study, improving transportation is a perfect way for the jurisdictions that make up the Washington area to work together.
Keith Haller, the president of the group that wrote the study, noted that the majority of area residents favor a regional transportation authority that can redirect tax money across jurisdictional lines.
The public "agrees very strongly that problems are intertwined across regional lines," and people want regional solutions, Mr. Haller said.
Air pollution remains a large problem, and in just few years could exceed the level at which the federal government cuts off transportation funds. Mrs. Rivlin said the Anacostia River is polluted and noted the importance of cleaning it up if it is to become the vibrant waterfront community envisioned by D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and organizers of the city's bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games.
"You don't want a wonderful waterfront on a dirty river," Mrs. Rivlin said.
Robert Peck, president of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, said his group wants to focus on smaller goals to improve transportation, such as better-timed traffic lights, and encouraging more Metro use and more telecommuting.
The index comprises two surveys of residents, one conducted in August and another three months later because of fears that the earlier results may no longer be relevant after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
The second survey found increases in the number of people identifying themselves as part of the greater Washington area and who had confidence in local leaders.

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