Failing Infrastructure Costs Americans Time and Money

Apr 3, 2012

The highway bill remains in Congressional limbo. Last week, Congress passed a ninth extension--avoiding a shutdown--in the hope that the House can pass something and work out their differences with the Senate in a conference committee.

State and local governments and contractors are in the lurch about what projects they can work on during the busy road construction season. And workers and families who drive on the roads are waiting for some reduced stress on their pocketbooks and their schedules.

The Treasury Department last month released a report on the costs our crumbling highway system imposes on Americans. It found that “[t]raffic congestion on our roads results in 1.9 billion gallons of gas wasted per year, and costs drivers over $100 billion in wasted fuel and lost time.” In 2010 the average household spent $7,677 dollars a year on transportation, 12% of their income. USA Today noted in its coverage that “[p]oor conditions of roads cost the average motorist who regularly drives in cities more than $400 annually in additional vehicle maintenance.”

Transportation expert, Robert Poole of the Reason Foundation, found that our highway system also costs us in time wasted:

The Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), which has been measuring the cost of traffic congestion in wasted time and fuel for three decades, estimates that in current dollars the traffic penalty rose from $24 billion in 1982 to $115 billion in 2009 (the latest year for which complete data are available). The average urban commuter wastes 34 hours a year in rush-hour congestion today, compared with just 14 hours in 1982.

In Los Angeles, the average commuter wastes 63 hours a year due to congestion. In Dallas/Ft. Worth, it’s 48 hours a year. And in the Washington, D.C., area, it’s a whopping 70—almost nine full working days that drivers could have back if only freeways and streets delivered motorists at the advertised speed.

Fixing clogged roads and potholes will not only make it easier for goods to move from buyers to sellers, it’ll make life a little easier for commuters and families.

So, once Congress returns to Washington it needs to hammer out a highway bill to that begins repairing America’s highways and transit networks.

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