A Faster Lane for Trucks?

Photograph by Hendrik Holler/Getty Images

Traffic jam at rush hour in Los Angeles.

Sitting in traffic is expensive.

An estimated $100 billion a year goes down the U.S. economy’s drain as a result of congestion, says the Texas Transportation Institute. Trucking companies pay about a quarter of that, and now Congress is toying with ways to get them out of first gear.

Fancy that. The masters of political gridlock are considering an answer for highway gridlock.

BGOV transportation analyst Matthew Hummer takes a closer look at the Senate’s proposed highway bill, which would include $2.5 billion a year to ease freight movement. His Bloomberg Government Study suggests that the bill has several shortcomings. It proposes to spend the money in the same states as the last bill did, whether the state has a freight movement problem or not. And because truckers share the roads with cars, spending money on roads may encourage more use by cars, adding to the congestion.

The stakes aren’t small. Hummer calculates that every 7.5-mile-per-hour slowdown amounts to $12.42 an hour in lost revenue for five of the biggest trucking companies.

Transportation policy is famously slow moving. The Senate’s plan may be an opening gambit in a long-term shift in spending federal highway money. Or it may be dead by the end of the summer.

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