U.S population reaching 300 million makes for a gridlocked nation

News ARTBA October 19, 2006
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The U.S. population officially hit 300 million at 7:46 a.m. EDT Monday, Oct. 16, when the Census Bureau's population clock rolled over to that figure. It represented a 50% increase since 1968, when the population stood at 200 million.

During that time, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association's (ARTBA) top economist, Dr. William Buechner, the number of:

• homes in the U.S. has grown from 67 million to 124 million--a 77% increase;

• American jobs has grown from 68 million to 134 million--an 88% jump;

• licensed drivers has almost doubled from 107 million to 199 million; and

• vehicle miles traveled on the nation's highways has almost tripled, from one trillion to three trillion; while the number of lane miles of highway capacity has only grown only 12%.

What are the impacts of this growth on America's transportation network?

• The number of vehicles traveling every day on each lane-mile of road in the U.S. has grown from 371 vehicles in 1968 to 1,015 vehicles today; and

• The average traveler in the U.S. today spends 48 hours per year, or six full working days, in traffic delays. By comparison, in 1968, travelers spent less than 16 hours per year in traffic delays.

The Census Bureau projects the U.S. population will hit 400 million people by 2043.

Between now and 2043 based on current trends, highway capacity will only grow 9%, ARTBA says, but traffic levels will swell by 135% to more than seven-trillion vehicle miles traveled annually. As a result, the average motorist can expect to spend 160 hours stuck in traffic delays, or the equivalent of four weeks each year.

It is a recipe for a gridlocked nation, Buechner says, unless major steps are taken soon to add new highway and public-transit capacity to accommodate future U.S. growth.

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