One Year After the I-35 Bridge Collapse, Industry Group Report Highlights Cost of Congestion

SKOKIE, Ill.--This week crews are scheduled to pour concrete to close the final gap on the new I-35 Bridge in Minneapolis. With a reported 100-year life span, 10 lanes of traffic, and the ability to accommodate future light rail transport, the new St. Anthony Falls Bridge is an example of a quality infrastructure project.

Yet, it is one of a needed many.

Population increases are expected to put even more pressure on roads and highways. Today, traffic congestion in United States wastes three billion gallons of fuel and contributes 27.2 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year, according to a report from the Portland Cement Association (PCA), a Skokie-Ill.-based trade group. The overall economic impact of traffic delays adds up to $80 billion per year.

By the year 2032, the U.S. population is expected to reach 363.5 million persons, adding an estimated 49 million drivers and 58 million vehicles to America's highways. Wasted fuel from traffic delays will more than double, to 6.5 billion gallons. Carbon dioxide emissions traced to congestion will increase to 60 million tons.

"Without improvements to our roads and highways, wasted time and higher transportation costs will result in a cumulative economic impact of $150 billion annually," says PCA president/CEO Brian McCarthy. "There is a lot of discussion about high fuel prices, but the real issue is infrastructure spending--how it affects highway capacity, traffic congestion, fuel use, and even carbon dioxide emissions."

Just to maintain our current levels of congestion while accommodating population growth, we will need 400,000 additional lane miles of highways by 2032.

Adding lane miles of highways could reduce congestion and save fuel.However, the need to meet infrastructure demands must address both economic and environmental priorities, using materials that are both cost-effective and sustainable.

"Concrete's low cost, durability and fuel savings are key considerations for building economical and sustainable highways," McCarthy said. "Concrete has traditionally been perceived as the higher-priced but longer-lasting material. Now, high-oil prices are making it more competitive with asphalt in terms of both initial costs and life-cycle costs."

For example, asphalt pavements need to be resurfaced, on the average, every eight to nine years. This work can be expensive and cause additional traffic headaches for commuters. A properly designed concrete road, however, can last up to 30 years before any resurfacing maintenance is required, saving states up to 20 percent or more in paving costs throughout the road's lifetime.

Additionally, studies have shown that vehicles, especially trucks, run more efficiently on concrete highways, reducing fuel costs and associated emissions.

Added lane miles of highways could reduce congestion and wasted fuel significantly. Without an increased emphasis on infrastructure spending and new ways to raise funds, traffic congestion will worsen leading to escalations in CO2 emissions, wasted fuel and overall cost to the nation's economy.

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For more information contact:
Patti Flesher