Report: Region's traffic tangle costs time, money
Calling on Congress to pass a long-delayed transportation spending bill, a study released last week found what many drivers on Interstate 95 in lower Fairfield County already know -- it's a waste of time and money.
Nearly $1,900 in additional gas and 42 hours of lost time every year to be exact, according to the study conducted by the Washington-based TRIP research group.
In a news conference about the report at the University of Connecticut's Stamford campus, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., was joined by state Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, in his continuing push for additional federal transportation dollars.
Sufficient transportation funding to address structurally deficient bridges, fix poor roads and increase capacity are linchpins of keeping the state's economy functioning and enabling future growth, Himes said.
More road and transit projects would also provide construction jobs, Himes said.
"The numbers are an indictment of the investment we have not made nationally in way too long," Himes said. "The particularly crushing aspect of the underinvestment is that investing the right amounts in our infrastructure is truly a win-win."
The study, "Connecticut's Transportation by the Numbers: Meeting the State's Need for Safe and Efficient Mobility," drew together 2012 statistics from the Federal Highway Administration and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, along with the Texas Transportation Institute, to estimate the impact of structural problems on drivers on state roads, bridges and transit facilities.
TRIP is a nonprofit organization funded by construction industry manufacturers, distributors and suppliers.
Other statistical highlights of the study are:
Overall, the cost of deficient bridges to all state drivers was estimated to be $4.2 billion a year in vehicle operating costs, congestion-related delays, and loss of life and limb in traffic crashes.
The study's numbers generally showed that congestion hit harder in the Bridgeport-Stamford corridor than Hartford and New Haven, but poor roads and congestion were choking those areas as well.
The study found Hartford and New Haven had a more dangerous road network, costing their residents $338 and $243 annually in injury and repair costs per motorist, compared to $209 in the Bridgeport-Stamford region.
The average Bridgeport-Stamford driver spent 42 extra hours, costing them $902 in lost time behind the wheel due to congestion problems caused by bad roads that caused slowdowns, compared to 38 hours costing $781 in Hartford.
The report found that 51 percent of locally- and state-maintained major roads were in poor condition in the Bridgeport-Stamford area, compared to 56 percent in Hartford and 63 percent in New Haven.
In the upcoming session of Congress, Himes said he hoped federal lawmakers would approve a long-term surface transportation package to shore up the National Highway Trust Fund for road and transit projects.
"When you talk to the business community, infrastructure is at the very top of the list of reasons why they either don't come to Fairfield County or Connecticut more generally, or don't expand," Himes said.
The completion of extra lanes on stretches of Interstate 95 in Norwalk to boost capacity, and a recent deal to fund the $500 million replacement of the failure-prone Norwalk River rail bridge, are the types of improvements that must be funded for the state to prosper, Duff said.
Duff, the incoming majority leader of the state General Assembly, echoed Himes' comments that gridlock and traffic issues in Fairfield County were hindering business development.
"This is really not a Connecticut issue, it is a national issue," Duff said. "Here in Connecticut, we have some of the oldest bridges and roads in the nation, and we have to get serious about fixing it."
Based on recent comments made by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, continued increases in the amount of state funding put toward road projects would seem to support the fact that elected officials understand the extent of the state's transportation woes, said Jack Condlin, president of Stamford's Chamber of Commerce.
After his re-election, Malloy made comments about prioritizing plans to modernize the state's transportation network.
Stamford had the good fortune of gaining new businesses and corporations to replace those that departed in the wake of the Great Recession, but business leaders will lose patience with the state without major overhauls in coming years, Condlin said.
"It's an opportunity for Connecticut to make a commitment to resolve these long-term transportation problems we've been suffering with," Condlin said of the study. "We saw some businesses move out, but as many move back in, but we realize that transportation infrastructure is something we are going to need to see improve if we are going to see growth."