- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

Rush-hour drivers in Washington spend more than 80 hours a year sitting in traffic congestion, and nationwide rush-hour periods are lasting longer, a transportation study released yesterday said.

The annual study, conducted by the Texas Transportation Institute, showed the average urban peak-hour motorist spent 62 hours sitting in traffic in 2000 compared with 16 hours in 1982, resulting in a national cost of $68 billion a year in wasted gas and time.

The institute analyzed data from the Federal Highway Administration and 10 state highway departments to determine the additional time drivers spend on the road during rush hours.

In the 75 urban areas studied, ranging in size from New York to areas with populations of 100,000, the report indicates that "all of the size categories show more severe congestion that lasts a longer period of time and affects more of the transportation network in 2000 than in 1982."

In Washington, travel times during peak rush hours were 46 percent longer than in non-peak hours.

"That means a 20 minute drive in the off-peak would take 29 minutes in the peak hours," study researcher Tim Lomax said.

The study ranked Washington the third-most-congested urban area out of all 75 areas studied, following Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Drivers in Los Angeles spent an average of 136 hours a year sitting in traffic during rush hour, and those in San Francisco spent more than 80 hours a year, the report said.

The fourth-most-congested area studied was Seattle.

Of the major roadways in the areas studied, more than half were congested during rush hours in 2000, while only one-third were considered crowded in 1982.

The study found that the average rush hours in urban areas in 1982 lasted about 4.5 hours per day. That figure jumped to seven hours in 2000.

Some traffic congestion problems can be blamed on increased travel on the nation's roads.

According to the report, passenger-miles of travel increased more than 85 percent on the freeways and major streets between 1982 and 2000.

"This additional travel contributed to rising congestion but also represented increased economic activity individuals and businesses pursuing improvements in quality of life and business opportunities," the report said.

Mr. Lomax said traffic congestion is also caused by other factors, some of which are actually intended to solve congestion problems.

"It's a combination of things like inadequate road systems, transit systems not being used as much as they could be," he said. "Operational treatments, freeway ramp metering and coordinating traffic signals these things are now being deployed, but are not fully installed throughout the system."


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