Study Ranks D.C. Traffic Worst in U.S.

February 5, 2013

By Allison Landry
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – If you’ve ever sat in your car for hours in a backup on Interstate 95 near Washington, you may have found yourself thinking, “This is the worst!”

A new study proves you were right on point.

The Texas Transportation Institute’s “Urban Mobility Report,” released Tuesday, rates the traffic congestion in the Washington, D.C, metro area as the worst in the country.

The study said the average Washington commuter spends 67 hours a year sitting in traffic. That was the highest among very large urban areas. The Los Angeles-Long Beach area and San Francisco-Oakland area in California were tied for the No. 2 spot at 61 hours.

The findings were no surprise to the thousands of Northern Virginia commuters who sit through the sluggish ordeal daily, wasting time in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

“You know it is bad when the beltway is occasionally backed up going to work at 5:30 a.m.,” said Matt Rawls, a stocking associate at Tyson’s Corner in McLean. “It also takes me 40 minutes to go five and a half miles from my house to George Mason University in Fairfax.”

Gov. Bob McDonnell used the Texas Transportation Institute’s report to boost his plan to pump more money into road and transit projects across the state. Citing the study, McDonnell called on the House and Senate on Tuesday to pass legislation to fund his plan.

“Congestion in Northern Virginia and the rest of the Washington region is the worst in the country, with drivers losing 67 hours in delays a year at the annual cost of almost $1,400 per commuter,” McDonnell said.

On a per-commuter basis, the Northern Virginia/Washington region also ranked highest in the amount of fuel wasted (32 gallons), the cost of congestion and the amount of carbon dioxide greenhouse gas released during congestion.

Citing the study, McDonnell also noted that:

  • Congestion in the Virginia Beach area is the 20th worst in the country. The average driver there faces 43 hours of delay per year, costing $877 and wasting 19 gallons of gas.
  • Congestion in the Richmond area is the 60th worst in the country. The average driver there faces 29 hours of delay per year, costing $581 and wasting 12 gallons of gas.

“Congestion is hurting our families, our economy and our way of life. For too long, we have kicked the can while Virginians have sat in traffic. And the problems we face have only gotten worse,” McDonnell said in a statement issued Tuesday morning.

“Today the House and Senate have the opportunity to change that. They have the opportunity to act to finally address and solve our transportation challenges. I urge the entire membership to put aside regional, partisan and personal differences to once and for all address this daunting challenge to our prosperity and our future.

“We must act decisively, and we must act now to pass comprehensive transportation funding reform. Today is the day Virginia must act.”

McDonnell sought legislation that would eliminate the state’s 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax, boost the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent, and dedicate more of the sales tax to transportation.

Later Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House of Delegates went along with the governor and passed a bill containing McDonnell’s funding plan.

However, a corresponding measure failed in the evenly divided Senate when all 20 Democrats voted against it.