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More metropolitan areas find themselves in a jam

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – Sitting in traffic, an annoying part of life in many big cities, is becoming a major headache in places not usually lumped in with New York, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

According to the annual Urban Mobility Report released Monday by the Texas Transportation Institute, 51 such places exist now compared with only five in 1982.

Among some of the newer entries: Colorado Springs, Colo.; Virginia Beach, Va.; Charleston, S.C.; New Haven, Conn.; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Salt Lake City; and Cincinnati.

“That’s where the growth is,” said Tim Lomax, one of the report’s co-authors. “The medium cities are about 10 to 15 years behind the big cities.”

And 10 to 15 years is about how long it takes to complete transportation projects that reduce congestion, Lomax said.

The numbers, from 2003 data, reflect a long-established trend of people moving to the suburbs in search of more affordable housing and more space. The report concluded that urban areas aren’t adding enough roads, improving traffic operations or managing demand well enough to keep pace with societal changes.

The result is clogged highways, and the king of that road nightmare is Los Angeles, where motorists are delayed an average of 93 hours a year. San Francisco was next at 72 hours, followed by Washington, D.C. (69 hours), Atlanta (67 hours) and Houston (63 hours).

In the 85 urban areas studied, rush-hour drivers spent three times as much time stuck in traffic in 2003 – 47 hours – as they did in 1982, the study found.

Overall in 2003, there were 3.7 billion hours of travel delay and 2.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel for a total cost of more than $63 billion. Congestion delayed travelers 79 million more hours and wasted 69 million more gallons of fuel in 2003 than in 2002.

The report was released Monday, the same day the Senate resumed debate on a bill that would spend $284 billion to $295 billion on highways over the next six years.

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