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Fixing Bottlenecks Could Yield $18B

Sat July 15, 2000 - West Edition
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A recent report released by the American Highway Users Alliance finds that Houston, TX-area residents and commuters would reap a total of $18 billion in economic benefits if needed improvements were made on the US-59 (Southwest Freeway) at the I-610 Loop Interchange and the I-610 at the I-10 Interchange. Completing those improvements would result in individual savings for commuters using the bottlenecks of up to $954 per year, according to the report.

The study details the substantial payoff to businesses and consumers from completing congestion-busting highway projects — not only in gas savings, but in reduced environmental emissions, fewer traffic accidents, and time savings.

The report, “Saving Time, Saving Money: The Economics of Unclogging America’s Worst Bottlenecks,” assesses the economic impact of the impressive gains from bottleneck improvements identified in “Unclogging America’s Arteries: Prescriptions for Healthier Highways,” a 1999 report performed by Cambridge Systematics for the Highway Users.

“Unclogging America’s Arteries” identified and analyzed the 166 worst bottlenecks in America, and included two from the Houston area in its list of the top 17 bottlenecks in the country. “Saving Time, Saving Money” has taken those findings the next step and assigned monetary values to the time and fuel savings, safety improvements and environmental benefits.

“This report shows that these bottlenecks aren’t just a nuisance, but a major drain on Houston’s economy and the personal productivity of its citizens,” said Harris County Judge Robert Eckels. “With so much to be gained, we need to find a way to streamline the process so that everyone can begin reaping these benefits.”

The report points out that commuters and citizens nationwide would enjoy more than $336 billion in economic benefits from improvements to the nation’s worst bottlenecks. The average commuter traveling through one of these 166 worst bottlenecks twice each workday could expect to save approximately $345 each year in time and fuel alone, if improvements were made.

“We need to move quickly to fix these bottlenecks,” Eckels said. “The opportunity cost of delays — in wasted time and fuel, highway accidents, and tailpipe emissions that could be avoided if improvements were completed now rather than later — is staggering.” The report estimates that a three-year delay in undertaking needed improvements to the 166 bottlenecks yields an opportunity cost of nearly $30 billion. “The good news, however,” Eckels continued, “is that there’s hope for curing congestion on our highways — which will save lives, improve the environment and create more free time to spend with our families and friends.”

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