Congestion worsens, here and around the nation

4:31 AM, Sep 19, 2007   |    comments
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  • Too many trips, too many people, too short a time. That's the finding of a new study on road congestion nationwide, and here at home. The study shows metro areas are getting more bogged down with traffic and that's costing commuters more time. It shows Twin Cities drivers spent an average of 43 hours stuck in traffic in 2005, up from 40 hours a year in 2004. "I spend too much time in traffic," agreed Tahasha Harpole of Minneapolis. "I think rush hour has extended. It used to be 5:15 rush hour is over. Now it's 6:15." "It used to be the southwest corner, and now it's starting to get to be bad in the northwest corner too," said Bob Hodgson of Shoreview. Peak commute times are still the worst, but as population grows, so does the problem. "We're not building roads as fast as we're adding people," David Levinson of the University of Minnesota explained. Levinson is a transportation expert who says no city can keep up with its traffic, and the Twin Cities are no exception. He says Minnesota does a good job of managing congestion, but that there's only one real solution. "The answer is somewhat controversial, and that is road pricing," said Levinson. "That's where we'd start charging people for driving by time of day by road segment." The MN Pass pay per use system started two years ago is one version of that, and other tolls could someday be coming. Commutes in the Minneapolis area now average 25 minutes, and they are getting longer. Still, no matter how bad traffic here seems, experts say it's far more congested elsewhere. "It's not as it is in some other places," Levinson said. "But as the Twin Cities continues to grow, and as population grows faster than the transportation network, we should expect congestion to get worse over time." "The highlight of the report, the silver lining, is that public transportation is relieving congestion. There were over 51 billion passenger miles of travel on public transportation system in the urban areas studied in the report," said Minnesota Congressman Jim Oberstar. "If public transportation were discontinued those areas would see an additional 541 million hours of delay and another 341 million gallons of fuel wastefully consumed."

    By Janel Klein, KARE 11 News

    (Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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