Traffic gridlock costs Colorado drivers $1.3 billion annually

With all the caterwauling about the real or feigned economic firepower of the federal transportation stimulus package, here’s something you can take to the bank — lousy roads are costing local drivers a pile of money.

A 2005 report compiled by the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) offers some wallet-squeezing numbers on how much time and gasoline is wasted idling on the nation’s roadways because of traffic congestion. Nationally, the TTI team estimates snarled traffic created a $78 billion annual drain on the economy.

Denver-Aurora Metro area commuters are spending an eye-popping 65 million hours more than expected in traffic, which burned 42.5 million gallons in excess fuel for a staggering total cost of $1.2 billion per year. The area ranks 16th in the nation for the highest mobility costs among the 85 cities studied.

Colorado Springs was high on the list of gridlocked communities with less than 500,000 residents. The home of the Ronald Reagan Freeway comes in at 62nd overall. Our neighbors to the south wiled away more than 7 million hours gripped in bumper-to-bumper traffic and drive-time radio while burning 4.4 million extra gallons of fuel. The whole traffic mess adds up to an extra $131 million than expected for a round trip commute to work.

Lest Boulder residents get too smug, their fine city made the list too.

Charting at 84th in the nation, Boulderites blew 996,000 hours in stuck in traffic and 576,000 gallons of wasted gas amounting to $17 million in burned up opportunity.

The TTI report points to seven non-surprising factors that affect commute times: incidents, work zones, weather, traffic volume variations, special events, poorly timed traffic control devices and inadequate road/bridge capacity.

Want to figure out your own gridlock economic hit?

• Estimate your real daily commute time against the driving estimate on Google Maps or Mapquest, approximating the same route.

• Then, calculate the additional idling fuel consumption for your vehicle.

• Multiply the value of your travel time delay (estimated at $14.60 per hour for an individual person’s travel and $77.10 per hour for truckers’ time) and then add in the fuel costs.

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Wendy Norris

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