Traffic congestion costs Baltimore-DC region $3 billion per year, says new study for GBC

Roadway congestion in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. region costs Maryland more than $3 billion per year — $1 billion in the Baltimore area and more than $2 billion in the D.C. area, according to findings of a Texas Transportation Institute study for Maryland’s three largest business advocacy organizations.

The cost of congestion in Maryland has increased almost 1,200 percent since 1982. The volume of the state’s rush-hour traffic has increased 135 percent in the last 25 years, yet the number of lane miles on major highways has increased by only 35 percent, according to the study, which was commissioned by the Greater Baltimore Committee, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

Based on the report’s findings, leaders of the three organizations are urging the governor and state lawmakers to increase revenue to the state’s Transportation Trust Fund by a minimum of $600 million annually. The increase is needed to address a more than $40 billion backlog of state highway, transit, port, and airport projects now in the planning stages that are not funded for construction.

The three groups agree that the total unmet transportation funding need in Maryland exceeds $1 billion per year. Addressing transportation funding is equally important to Maryland’s future vitality as is resolving the state’s General Fund operating deficit, the groups contend.

The groups also agree that:

  • revenue dedicated to the Transportation Trust Fund should stay in the fund and not be used for General Fund purposes;
  • an increase in the state’s gas tax should be part of the solution in increasing annual transportation revenue by at least $600 million;
  • the majority of additional taxes for transportation purposes should be raised from transportation-related sources.

“The Texas Transportation Institute’s study validates what we instinctively knew – that our state is at a tipping point when it comes to transportation infrastructure,” said Donald C. Fry, president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. “Transportation funding may be the biggest economic growth challenge facing Maryland in the next decade and it must be a top priority in the State House.”

“Without an infusion of new revenue, Maryland’s transportation capital budget will shrink and travelers can look forward to worsening gridlock,” said James C. Dinegar, president & CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “To keep our region’s economy moving forward, Maryland’s fiscal mix must include increased transportation funding.”

“This report points out a key fact of economics that our fiscal policy makers must focus on,” said Kathleen T. Snyder, president & CEO of the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. “Quality transportation resources won’t guarantee us a strong economy, but they’re surely a prerequisite. And right now, transportation is an economic building block that needs attention in Maryland.”

Traffic is clogging the main arteries of the state’s two primary employment centers – the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore regions. Commuters in the D.C. area spend almost 60 hours a year stuck in traffic, while Baltimore-area commuters spend more than 40 hours in traffic jams, according to the report.

The report gauges the projected economic benefits of several levels of increased transportation funding. For example, a $600 million annual increase in transportation funding would produce $1 billion in annual savings and benefits, including saving 1.8 million gallons of fuel and 2.6 million hours of delay each year.

There is a historical “critical link” between transportation and economic success, Texas Transportation Institute researchers wrote.

Conversely, a deteriorating transportation system has a decidedly negative impact on business climate and quality of life. “Access to markets becomes jeopardized when companies can’t count on a reliable and efficient transportation system. When the same system begins to deteriorate the quality of life for residents, they seek to live somewhere else,” researchers noted.