Case study: the cost of doing nothing

July 4, 2012

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported recently that a three-mile stretch of Parkway West – from Green Tree to the Fort Pitt Tunnel – has received the dubious distinction of being ranked as the ninth-most congested stretch of highway in the country. 

According to INRIX, an international firm that uses global positioning technology to track the movement of traffic, the average trip through that three-mile stretch takes 13 minutes.  At the 55 mph posted speed limit, it SHOULD take about 3 minutes and 15 seconds.

Now bear with us while we lay a little math on you.  If it takes you an extra 9 minutes and 45 seconds to drive that three-mile stretch through stop-and-go traffic, then you have driven the equivalent of 9 extra miles.  If you’re a commuter who drives it every weekday, twice a day, by the end of the week you will have driven the equivalent of 90 additional miles.

If your car gets 20 miles to the gallon, you’ve wasted about 4.5 gallons of gasoline in a week.  At $3.50 a gallon, you’ve spent $15.75 more than you should have – all because of this one measly three-mile stretch.

OK, hybrid lovers, let’s say your vehicle gets 45 miles to the gallon.  In that case you’ve only wasted 2 gallons of gas and shelled out only $7 more than you should have.

According to Governor Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission report, raising an additional $2.5 billion per year for transportation funding would cost the average motorist 70 cents per week initially, growing eventually to about $2.50 per week.  At that level, Pennsylvania could afford to bring existing highways up to a state of good repair, as well as begin addressing congestion problems throughout the commonwealth.

“Some people are afraid that addressing our transportation needs would be too expensive, and that people wouldn’t support paying more, especially in a soft economy,” said PHIA Managing Director Jason Wagner.  “But in the state’s population centers, there’s an even greater cost for doing nothing, and wherever there’s congestion, motorists are already paying it.”


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