The latest rankings by the Texas Transportation Institute place the Washington DC region at the top of the list, among all major metropolitan areas in the United States, in average travel delays. Last year, we were tied with Chicago for first place, with an average of 70 hours wasted by each of us from sitting in traffic delays. This year, the amount of time we waste in traffic has grown to a whopping 74 hours a year, nearly two full work weeks.
When you add up all the lost productivity, tons of wasted fuel, and other costs, each of us is wasting more than $1,400 per year, simply due to congestion. Just for comparision, each of us would pay about $50 extra per year from a 10-cent increase in the gas tax, which could be used to fund a long list of projects that we know will cut travel times and congestion costs as much as 25%. I would rather spend $50 to save $350, not to mention all that lost time.
It is hard to see why state and local leaders are not making transportation investments a more urgent priority. Voters in our region continue to rank traffic congestion as their number-one priority, yet elected officials continue to ignore transportation almost entirely.
This has to change. The Maryland legislature needs to act and it needs to act this year. At least $800 million per year in new transportation funding has been recommended by the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission, along with new protections against diverting scarce transportation dollars for other uses.
We know exactly what we need to do to reduce congestion in our region. It starts with building the new transit and road capacity we need to reduce delays and get people back to work. All that’s missing is the political will among our elected representatives to make this a priority. Maryland will not be able to sustain any level of economic recovery unless we take on this issue and invest in our infrastructure now.