Thursday, October 2, 2003

Traffic woes: A new study

Alleviate the problem

Anyone who has ever been stuck on Interstates 71 or 75, or spent time cursing behind the wheel in gridlocked traffic doesn't need a study to tell him how long he spends stuck on the road.

Nevertheless, a new study exists, and it makes a compelling case for the need to fix the problem.

Being stuck on the nation's highways costs us time and lots of money, according to the Texas Transportation Institute, which released its findings Tuesday. Specifically, commuters now spend three times longer in traffic than they did 20 years ago, and that costs the country a whopping $69.5 billion.

The average person loses $1,160 a year in gas and lost wages. For Greater Cincinnatians, the 20 extra hours we each spend in traffic delays annually equates to a loss of $525 million for the region. Greater Cincinnati ranks 31st in the nation for traffic congestion.

Imagine the detrimental economic and environmental impact of such trends if they continue unabated for another 20 years. The study noted that part of the reason why traffic is so bad is that roads have not been built to accommodate population growth. That's certainly the case in the Cincinnati area, and it is one of the reasons why a subcommittee of the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments recommended a $1.8 billion fix for I-75 through the region.

The recommendations include adding traffic lanes to the expressway and creating a light-rail line from Covington to West Chester. Those recommendations now go to the full OKI board. Whether or not all the pieces of such a huge project ever come to pass, it is clear that we must begin to take steps now to prevent massive gridlock in the decades to come. Just widening the highway will take 10 to 15 years to design and build.

Meanwhile, carpooling, increasing our use of existing mass transit, telecommuting, living closer to our workplaces and finding alternate routes are things we can do to alleviate the congestion we face today. There's no point in continuing to just sit in traffic and do nothing.

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