Study: Traffic jams siphon $1B a year from Western Pa. drivers
For Lisa Hoffman, time is money.
Hoffman owns West Liberty Clocks along bustling West Liberty Avenue, part of a corridor that a national research group says is Pittsburgh's most congested road. Hoffman says her 15-mile commute from Finleyville takes 35 to 40 minutes.
“Sometimes you're going to sit and wait a while. You kind of expect it,” said Hoffman, 54, adding that recent improvements — a center turning lane and repaving the road — are easing congestion.
In a study released on Thursday, TRIP, a Washington-based transportation research group, says congestion costs Pittsburgh-area motorists a combined $1 billion a year in lost time and wasted fuel.
“The strength of the region's economic growth is threatened by the failure to address the looming transportation funding crisis,” said Frank Moretti, TRIP's director of policy and research.
Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Barbara McNees said inaction costs more than taking action.
“(Pennsylvania) cannot afford the cost to its economy if raw materials can't get to factories, if people can't get to work, if goods can't get to market,” she said.
Moretti said extra money for transportation could help pay for a broad range of remedies, from beefing up transit service to improving the timing of traffic signals or adding turning lanes. An advisory commission Gov. Tom Corbett established in 2011 estimated the state needs to spend $552 million more a year on projects to reduce congestion.
Doing nothing is costly, Moretti said.
TRIP rated West Liberty Avenue/Crosstown Boulevard as the most the congested corridor, costing rush-hour commuters an extra $2,915 a year in wasted gas and lost productivity. Used by 33,000 motorists a day, it runs from Brookline Boulevard through the Liberty Tunnel and across the Liberty and Veterans bridges to the Hazlett Street exit in the North Side.
Moretti said congestion there could be reduced by coordinating the timing of traffic signals and increasing transit service.
Other congested stretches include the Parkway West between Robinson and the Fort Pitt Bridge, rated among the nation's worst in previous studies; the Fifth and Forbes Avenue corridor between Downtown and Oakland; and Route 228/Freedom Road in the Cranberry area.
“We like traffic. It generates customers,” said Tom Cross, founder and manager of Freedom Square Diner in Cranberry.
Cross, 53, disputed the ranking of Route 228/Freedom Road, which carries 23,000 vehicles a day. Although Cranberry experienced explosive growth in the past 10 to 15 years, Cross said, “You ever go through the Squirrel Hill Tunnel or sit on Green Tree Hill (on the Parkway West)? They're a lot worse. (Route) 228 doesn't come close.”
Ranked fifth through ninth on TRIP's list: Route 51 from the Parkway West to Lewis Runs Road in Pleasant Hills; the Parkway East from the Fort Pitt Bridge to the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Monroeville; Banksville Road/Beverly Road from the Parkway West to Cochran Road in Mt. Lebanon; Penn Avenue from the Parkway East to Negley Avenue in East Liberty; and Route 28 from I-279 to the Etna exit.
State leaders are weighing proposals to boost transportation funding. Corbett proposed increasing transportation funding by up to $1.8 billion a year; the Senate this month passed a bill to raise an extra $2.5 billion annually.
Eric Bugaile, executive director of the House Transportation Committee, said the committee will take up the issue next week. Transportation Chairman Dick Hess, R-Bedford, has said the House version could fall between Corbett's and the Senate's plans.
One source of money from the Senate plan that Hess doesn't intend to keep in the House version: a $100 surcharge on traffic tickets, which could generate an estimated $75.5 million to $100.5 million for transit.
McNees opposes scaling back the Senate plan.
“We were caught off-guard by the breadth of opposition to the (surcharge) proposal. We had regarded it as something akin to an automotive ‘sin tax.' A motorist who did not want to pay could, through his own actions, ensure that he did not have to,” McNees said.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- McCandless residents voice opposition to Wal-Mart plan
- Castle Shannon mayor honored by statewide association
- TSA fee increase this week arrives with load of complaints
- Squirrel Hill street that had been paved getting another pave job
- Pittsburgh Cultural Trust leads applicants seeking increase in RAD money
- 1 intruder killed, another injured in Carrick home invasion
- Ukrainian festival will go on in McKees Rocks despite crisis in homeland
- Moon Area board reconfigures elementary buildings, votes again to close school and explore merging with Cornell
- Shenango asks judge to dismiss suit by environmental group
- N.C. churches lend helping hands in Western Pa.
- Save-the-map appeal generates $10K online to revitalize North Side artwork