By Mark Holan, editorial director, ARTBA

Traffic gridlock in the Nation’s Capital is as bad as the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill.

The 82 hours of annual congestion delays per driver in metropolitan Washington, D.C., is worst in the country, according to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the traffic monitoring firm Inrix. The report estimated U.S. drivers spend 42 hours per year stuck in traffic based on the average of 471 cities and towns. Los Angeles was second worst at 80 hours per year.

The report comes on the heels of data released last week by the U.S. Transportation Department showing that Americans drove a record 1.54 trillion miles during the first half of this year, the highest six-month total since before the Great Recession.

The increased traffic congestion and growth in vehicle miles traveled is clearly tied to the improving U.S. economy and creation of jobs—a message ARTBA has consistently delivered as professional environmentalists have attempted to use the Great Recession as an opportunity to claim U.S. reduced dependency on automobiles and roads.  The trends also underscore once again the importance of having a comprehensive federal transportation investment strategy to meet national mobility challenges, and the need for action in the House of Representatives this fall on a multi-year highway/transit bill.

The TTI-Inrix report notes that “congestion is also a type of tax.” Nationwide, the average auto commuter paid $960 for delays and wasted fuel in 2014, compared to an inflation-adjusted $400 in 1982. In metro Washington, congestion cost drivers $1,834 per year, also highest in the nation. 

The study suggests low-cost fixes such as better traffic signal timing, intersection design improvements and faster accident removal to reduce delays. It recommends adding capacity to critical corridors and leveraging technology that helps vehicles communicate with each other and with the roadway. It also says changing travel patterns and diversifying development along major arteries can help curb congestion, while adding that expectation must remain realistic.

The rest of the top 10 most delayed metros were San Francisco-Oakland, Calif., 78 hours; New York, N.Y.-Newark, N.J., 74 hours; Boston, Mass., 64 hours; Seattle, Wash., 63 hours; Chicago, Ill., 61 hours; Houston, Texas, 61 hours; Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas, 53 hours; and Atlanta, Ga., 52 hours.

“It is clear that our current investment levels have not kept pace with the problems,” the TTI- Inrix report says. “Most urban regions have big problems now – more congestion, poorer pavement and bridge conditions and less public transportation service than they would like.”