Traffic congestion keeps getting worse

Traffic jam
Traffic backs up on I-94 eastbound near Huron Blvd.
MPR Photo/Charlie Knutson

A new report says traffic congestion is worsening in American cities of all sizes, and the economic cost of those slowdowns is also growing significantly.

Drivers on average spend nearly 38 hours a year crawling through traffic on their way to work.

The Texas Transportation Institute released its 2007 Urban Mobility Report Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The report, which is based on 2005 data, estimates a $78 billion annual cost from traffic congestion.

That figure includes 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel.

A transportation expert says there are too many people driving on an inadequate infrastructure. Also, census data shows that nearly three out of four drivers are alone in their cars.

U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, DFL-Minn., chairman of the House Transportation Committee, says the report also shows public transportation is helping to ease congestion in many urban areas. "If public transportation were curtailed, discontinued, those areas would have experienced and additional 541 million hours of delay, and another 340 million gallons of fuel wastefully consumed," Oberstar says.

The study says commuters in L.A. are wading through the most traffic, spending nearly 72 hours a year frustrated behind the wheel. Next in line in traffic are Atlanta, San Francisco, Washington and Dallas.

The study says Minneapolis-St. Paul drivers spent an average of 43 hours a year in commuting traffic in 2005, up from 40 hours a year in 2004. The Twin Cities tied for 23rd among the 85 cities studied. It says traffic delays in the Twin cities area grew much faster than in comparable urban areas between 1982 and 2005.