Calling congestion one of the single largest threats to the economy, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta recently announced a new national initiative to tackle highway, freight and aviation congestion.
During remarks to the National Retail Federation, Mineta said that "congestion kills time, wastes fuel and costs money."
He noted that America loses an estimated $200 billion a year due to freight bottlenecks and delayed deliveries. The Secretary added that consumers lose 3.7 billion hours and 2.3 billion gallons of fuel sitting in traffic jams and that airline delays waste $9.4 billion a year.
"Congestion is not a fact of life," Mineta said. "We need a new approach and we need it now."
The new initiative, the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network, provides a blueprint for federal, state and local officials to tackle congestion, Mineta said. He noted that over the coming months, the U.S. Department of Transportation will focus its resources, funding, staff and technology to cut traffic jams, relieve freight bottlenecks and reduce flight delays.
The initiative will seek Urban Partnership Agreements with a handful of communities willing to demonstrate new congestion relief strategies and encourages states to pass legislation giving the private sector a broader opportunity to invest in transportation. It calls for more widespread deployment of new operational technologies and practices that end traffic tie ups, designates new interstate "corridors of the future," targets port and border congestion and expands aviation capacity.
The Secretary also announced that he would convene the Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Commission for its first meeting on Wednesday, May 24. He said he would task the commission with finding solutions that not only raise revenue for highway and transit projects, but also reduce the cost of congestion by focusing more on system performance.
Mineta acknowledged that some of the measures in the plan would be considered controversial by those he called "wedded to the status quo." But he added that new solutions were needed to successfully reduce congestion.
"The bottom line is that every person and every business in America has a vested interest in reducing congestion," Mineta said. "We don't have to let traffic delays put our lives on hold any longer."