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Portland tied for 12th most congested city in country

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TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Traffic congestion in Portland is bad and getting worse, according to recent studies.Portland is tied for the 12th most congested city in the country with Atlanta, Austin, Detroit and Miami, according to a new annual report by the the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and INRIX Inc.

The 2015 Urban Mobility Report says people in Portland the other cities spend 52 extra hours a year stuck in traffic. The delay costs Portlanders $1,273 a year in lost time and wasted fuel, the report also says.

According to the report, the most congested city in the country is Washington DC, where residents lost 82 hours and $1,834 a year. It is closely followed by Los Angeles at 80 hours and $1,711, San Francisco at 78 hours and $1,675, and New York at 74 hours and $1,739.

The report also says traffic congestion nationally reached a new peak last year and is greater than ever before. Although congestion dropped during the Great Recessions, traffic counts have climbed as the economy recovered and now exceed pre-recession levels.

Local, the Oregon Department of Transportation says Portland-area freeways are operating at or above capacity. Oregon's total vehicle miles traveled increased 6.3 percent during the first five months of 2015 compared with the same period last year. That's nearly double the national average, says ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said.

And congestion is expected to get worse in Oregon, according to the Economic Impacts of Congestion study released at the 2015 Oregon Business Summit. The study said that, if transportation spending is not increased, the average metropolitan area household will be stuck in congestion for 69 hours a year by 2040 — triple the time in 2010. The impact on freight-dependent businesses will be even greater because such congestion can cause them to miss critical shipments, reducing the state’s economic competitiveness because so many goods travel through the Portland region.

“The study shows just how transportation dependent the state and region are. Because of that, congestion has the potential to affect the economy to a great degree,” says Marion Haynes, vice president of government affairs at the Portland Business Alliance.

Since the study was released in January, the 2015 Oregon Legislature failed pass a new transportation funding package because of a partisan split over the state's low-carbon fuel program that is expected to increase gas prices without funding road improvements.

Overall, the new Urban Mobility Report says, Americans experienced 6.9 billion hours of traffic delays in 2014 compared to 6.6 billion in 2007 and 1.8 billion in 1982.

Other findings in the report include:

• Trucks account for about 18 percent of urban congestion, although they represent just 7 percent of urban travel.

• The cost of congestion to the average auto commuter was $960 in lost time and fuel in 2014, compared to an inflation-adjusted $400 in 1982.

• About 40 percent of delays occur in midday and overnight hours, making it more difficult to avoid delays by avoiding commuter rush hours.

• Severe or extreme congestion levels affected one of every four trips in 2014, up from one in nine trips in 1982.

Read the report at mobility.tamu.edu/ums/.