Editorial: Funding roads now will pay off in the long run

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

If you want to find a bad consequence of an underfunded transportation system in Minnesota and the United States, you have a smorgasbord of choices.

There are now 51 U.S. cities where motorists, many parents, on average spend 20 or more hours per year in congested traffic &045; time they could be spending with their children.

In Minnesota, people spend a full 40 hours a year in traffic congestion.

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In the United States, traffic delays take away 79 million hours per year from motorists who could be enjoying a park, a beach or a nightclub.

They could be spending money at a shopping center.

Instead, they buy an extra 69 million gallons of extra fuel a year from a Middle Eastern oil cartel just to keep their car idling in stop and go traffic.

With gas prices now at record levels, the cost of the wasted fuel has increased exponentially.

While the U.S. Senate debates a bill that spends $284 billion on highway construction over the next six years, transportation officials say $400 billion is needed to ease congestion and solve traffic problems.

That cost could be recovered in six to seven years if we immediately cut the amount of fuel wasted down to nothing. Even if that didn’t happen overnight, we would be heading in the right direction.

In Minnesota, we face a similar problem. A group of the state’s 30 largest businesses said in a report last year that the state needs to spend an extra $750 million a year on roads and transit to relieve metro-area congestion and offer new options.

In Minnesota, we consumed about 10 percent more gasoline in January 2005 than five years earlier. The cost was up 42 percent over the same period, bringing an economic drain of $21 million a year from the higher consumption and the higher price.

As congestion rises, so will our cost.

Our driving habits and our inability to accommodate those habits with bigger and wider roads and more mass transit, give those who sell oil the perfect captive market.

Investing in transportation to ease congestion will pay tremendous dividends down the road.

&045; The Free Press of Mankato