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Report on Rise of Interstate Congestion Underscores Importance of State-Level Transportation Investments

| Infrastructure

Following up on the NC Chamber’s successful 2015 advocacy efforts to encourage North Carolina leaders to pass the state’s first long-term transportation funding reforms since the 1980’s, we are continuing to fight on your behalf to protect the future of our entire transportation network. Over the past several years the Chamber has developed a close working relationship with the national transportation research group, TRIP. As you might remember, their 2014 analysis of the burdensome costs associated with North Carolina’s deteriorating roads and bridges helped inform our efforts last session. This week, TRIP released a new report detailing the mounting congestion problems facing our nation’s interstate highways. And this new analysis provides even more weight to the case that the Chamber and aligned groups are taking the smart road by working now to secure the future of state-level transportation investments.

According to this outline of TRIP’s latest report from USA Today, since President Dwight Eisenhower signed the interstate system into law in 1956 the total number of annual driving miles brought to bear on its roads has risen from 626 billion to about 3 trillion, while the total number of annual vehicles has quadrupled from 65 million to 260 million! Moreover, since 2000, travel rates have grown at double the pace that new lanes have been created, so an interstate system that currently accounts for only 2.5 percent of lane miles nationwide must somehow struggle to support 25 percent of the nation’s traffic. The result, of course, is massive congestion: based on TRIP’s analytics, 8,020 out of 18,567 miles of roadway on urban interstates (about 43 percent) is considered congested during peak hours.

For those interested in seeing North Carolina continue to grow, the most important takeaway in all of this is the why of the matter. As the TRIP report indicates, the reason for all of this congestion is the $189 billion backlog at the federal level for the investments needed to adequately improve and maintain a healthy interstate network. While federal leaders did take a positive step toward solving this problem with passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in 2015, that $189 billion backlog provides a real example of how a lack of forward-thinking initiative in transportation policy can lead to funding problems that last for decades.

The NC Chamber knows that North Carolina’s ability to continue supporting competitive job growth will always be directly tied to the health of its transportation infrastructure. That’s why we fought for long-term funding reforms in 2015; and it’s why in the coming years we will keep fighting to secure the transportation investments our state needs in order to continue paving the way for new job growth in North Carolina.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber