By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — The U.S. economy’s resurgence has had an unintended consequence – as more job-holding commuters hit the road the traffic recession has also come to an end.
Traffic congestion levels in U.S. cities have returned to pre-recession levels, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute reported in its 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, and American drivers collectively waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and more than 7 billion hours sitting in traffic.
Each of the Greater Boston area’s approximately 1.7 million commuters were delayed by traffic an average of 64 extra hours in 2014 — more than two and a half days — the sixth highest total in the country, the study found. The national average was 42 hours.
The total number of hours Greater Boston rush-hour commuters sat in traffic had dipped from 64 in 2007 to as low as 59 hours in 2009, during the height of the recession. Twenty years ago, Boston commuters were delayed an average of 48 hours annually, but the city’s congestion still ranked sixth worst in the nation.
The Boston region averaged 4.90 hours of congestion each day in 2014, with 37 percent of vehicle miles of travel occurring during a period of congestion, the study found.
The average travel delay per commuter nationwide is more than twice what it was in 1982, and the congestion costs $160 billion, or $960 per commuter, according to the study.
“Our growing traffic problem is too massive for any one entity to handle – state and local agencies can’t do it alone,” Tim Lomax, a civil engineer who co-authored the report, said in a statement. “Businesses can give their employees more flexibility in where, when and how they work, individual workers can adjust their commuting patterns, and we can have better thinking when it comes to long-term land use planning. This problem calls for a classic ‘all-hands-on-deck’ approach.”
Washington D.C. was named the most gridlock-plagued city, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).
The report used traffic speed data collected by INRIX, a big data technology company that focuses on transportation issues, on 1.3 million miles of urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data from the Federal Highway Administration.