Traffic jams are costing Americans $65 billion per year

May 10, 2005
It’s not just the high cost of fuel that’s frustrating American motorists – it’s how much of that fuel is being wasted

It’s not just the high cost of fuel that’s frustrating American motorists – it’s how much of that fuel is being wasted. Americans are using up 2.3 billion gallons of motor fuel annually sitting in stalled traffic, according to a study conducted by Texas Transportation Institute. To put that in perspective, Federal Highway Administration data show that’s more than the combined annual motor fuel consumption of six states -- Alaska, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, Hawaii and North Dakota.

At an average of $2.28 per gallon, the motor fuel wasted due to traffic congestion is costing American motorists and shippers $6.2 billion a year. Lost productivity, TTI reports, adds another $60 billion annually to the traffic gridlock tax.

According to Pete Ruane, president of American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), “The root cause of traffic congestion in America is the failure of government at all levels to make the transportation capital investments necessary to keep pace with the mobility demands of an ever growing U.S. population and economy. This is no mystery. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, since 1982 U.S. population and economic growth has driven a 74% increase in vehicle miles traveled. Over the same period, road lane mileage has only increased 6%. Serious public investment in new public transit, rail, airport and waterway capacity has similarly been neglected.”

The problem, according to the TTI report, can be stated simply: “Urban areas are not adding enough capacity, improving operations or managing demand well enough to keep congestion from growing larger. Over the most recent three years, the contribution of operations improvements has grown from 260 to 340 million hours of congestion relief, but delay has increased by 300 million hours over the same period. Congestion occurs during longer portions of the day and delays more travelers and goods than ever before. And if the current fuel prices are used, the congestion ‘invoice’ climbs another $1.7 billion, which would bring the total cost to about $65 billion.”

“We share the President’s view that it’s time for America to start building again to reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign energy supplies,” says Ruane. “Building needed new transportation infrastructure capacity should be part of the solution along with the proposed new capacity for nuclear power and oil and natural gas production. We could kick-start a new federal energy plan by putting real-growth investment into the deficit-neutral highway and transit program bill, which will be debated in the U.S. Senate this week, and enacting it into law quickly. It has been stalled in an ideological and partisan traffic jam for almost two years.”

The ARTBA Transportation Development Foundation co-sponsored the TTI report.

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