WASHINGTON – Rush-hour congestion in Baltimore and Washington continues to be among the worse in the nation, according to a national study of 75 urban areas released Tuesday.
The annual report by the Texas Transportation Institute said the Washington region went from having the ninth-worst commute in the nation in 2000 to having the eighth-worst in 2001.
Baltimore got a little better, going from 23rd-worst to 25th-worst, but that only means that “other cities got worse quicker,” said research engineer and report author Tim Lomax.
“This is one time when being ranked highly in the nation is not a badge of honor,” said Lon Anderson, public relations director for the mid-Atlantic region of the American Automobile Association.
The report compared what should have been a 25-minute commute in each of the 75 cities surveyed, to the time it actually took to cover that distance during a typical rush hour. It found that Baltimore commuters were spending about 47 more hours per year in their cars than they would have under ideal commuting conditions, and Washington residents were spending about 58 more hours in the car.
That congestion cost Baltimore-area commuters just over $1 billion in lost worker productivity and extra gas, the report said. In Washington, the price tag was just under $2.5 billion.
The report also said that from 1991 to 2001, the rush “hour” in Baltimore increased from a total of 5.6 hours in the morning and evening combined to 7.2 hours. In Washington, it went from 7.2 to 8.0 hours.
Anderson said the Washington region — which includes Southern Maryland, the District of Columbia and Northern Virginia — tied Chicago for third place on the toll congestion takes on daily life.
“The only thing that doesn’t grow is our transportation capacity,” Anderson said. “We’re very studious in this region. We love to study and debate. But, when it comes to acting on expensive transportation projects, we lack the will.”
Lawmakers on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee who introduced the report Tuesday said it points to the need for more funding for both highway and mass transportation projects, and called for the passage of a transportation bill.
Lomax agrees, saying, “More is the answer.” He advocates growth in mass transit, roads and traffic-control methods such as metered ramps, traffic signal coordination and quicker emergency response times to roadway incidents.
A spokesman for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce agreed that a good transportation network is essential, but he also said that, given the current price of gas, this may not be the right climate for a tax increase to fund transit.
“Obviously, with the budget deficit, things are tight. Any recommendations have to be realistic,” said William Burns, the spokesman.
He said the chamber has a public hearing scheduled for Nov. 10 on state and federal transportation issues and would make recommendations on a plan after that, but he would not elaborate.
The report was sponsored by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, Transportation Development Foundation and the American Public Transportation Association. -30- CNS 09