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Denver ranks as one of the worst traffic-congestion cities

5:02 PM, Sep 27, 2011   |    comments
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USA Today came out with a ranking of the Top 10 cities with the worst traffic congession in the United States. Denver ranked 8th.

But it's not all bad news for the most populous city in Colorado. Instead of cursing the rush-hour gridlock, residents the No. 1 ranked city in this list - Washington D.C. - might conclude that their commute is so bad mainly because their city is better off economically than most.

That's the case in most big metro areas that saw congestion worsen last year over 2009, says Tim Lomax, a co-author of the 2011 Urban Mobility Report from the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. "You look down the list at places that have gotten more congested, and they're almost all places where the economy is doing better," he says.

Metro regions such as Washington's, which are rebounding faster than many other places, serve as a bellwether for the nation, Lomax says. Although congestion last year cost $101 billion - about $750 in time and gas for every commuter - it wasn't much worse than the year before because so many people remain out of work. When the jobs come back, so will the gridlock.

"People might say, 'Congestion hasn't gotten much worse in these last couple of years, so why should we worry about it?'" Lomax says. "We expect the economy is going to come back. If I thought we were going to keep 10% unemployment for the next decade, you could make a case that we don't need [a bigger] transportation system than we have right now."

The TTI report uses data from the states and from INRIX, a traffic information company. The report says the USA is blowing an opportunity to expand roads and transit during a general lull in congestion. Congress for two years has delayed passing a multiyear federal transportation funding bill.

The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, a co-sponsor of the report, cited that delay. "Members of Congress are fooling themselves if they think traffic gridlock is going to solve itself," spokesman Matt Jeanneret says. "In an era of fiscal restraint, it's irresponsible for Congress to do nothing about the $100 billion traffic congestion tax."

Big transportation projects in a down economy might seem a pipe dream, but Lomax says voters approved several local transportation projects in November. "When you get...an agency that's doing a good job, that's willing to be accountable to the public and using the fee or tax for specific projects, you see two-thirds to three-fourths of these elections passing," he says. "That's absolutely transferable" to the federal level.

See where the other cities in the U.S. rank here, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/story/2011-09-27/worst-traffic-congestion-city/50561310/1.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation with USA Today)

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