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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-07-005    Date:  Jul/Aug 2007
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-07-005
Issue No: Vol. 71 No. 1
Date: Jul/Aug 2007


Guest Editorial

Fighting Gridlock Now

Photo of J. Richard Capka, Administrator of Federal Highway AdministrationEvery day, Americans use the Nation's transportation system to commute to and from work, travel across State borders, and manage the basic necessities of life. The Nation depends on this world-class system to meet its daily needs and to support the U.S. economy. As the population expands and more drivers operate vehicles, the number of automobiles and tractor-trailers on the roadways continues to increase. Parallel growth will occur in the airways, on railways, and on waterways. Although the system continues to facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods, the Nation must recognize and understand the increasing pressure placed upon that system. The pressure contributes to a growing transportation problem facing Americans in the 21st century — congestion.

The negative impacts of congestion are all too evident across the Nation, particularly in urban areas located along major freight corridors. Urban areas such as New York, Chicago, and Southern California all clearly show the strains of congestion and its drain upon the Nation's quality of life and economic vitality. Costs are enormous in terms of lost productivity, wasted fuel, diminished personal and family time, and environmental consequences. Most important, congestion is not an inescapable fact of life. America can do something about congestion, but solutions cannot be achieved overnight and cannot be accomplished in an uncoordinated "stove-piped" fashion. The Nation must be coordinated, innovative, and bold in exploring, testing, and learning from new and creative ideas across a broad spectrum of possibilities. Otherwise, congestion will continue to sap energy from this otherwise growing and prosperous Nation.

In May 2006, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) unveiled the National Strategy to Reduce Congestion on America's Transportation Network (also known as the Congestion Initiative). This six-point plan provides a framework to reduce congestion and seeks to accomplish the following: (1) relieve urban congestion, (2) unleash highway investment resources from the private sector, (3) promote operational and technological improvements, (4) establish a Corridors of the Future competition, (5) target major freight bottlenecks and expand freight policy outreach, and (6) accelerate major projects to improve aviation capacity. Modal agencies, such as the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the Federal Aviation Administration, will develop and implement supportive and compatible strategies, essential to the success of the Congestion Initiative.

This edition of Public Roads highlights some of the latest and most effective strategies to relieve congestion on the Nation's highways. These strategies will enable motorists to make more informed travel decisions and to take appropriate actions to avoid and reduce traffic congestion. One article focuses on better managing the transportation system's existing capacity through congestion pricing and tolling in urban areas, including information on pilot projects underway to reduce gridlock. Another discusses the intricacies of developing public-private partnerships to finance capital improvement projects. This issue also contains information about USDOT's efforts to implement operational and technological advancements such as 511 travel information services. In addition, this issue includes information on efforts to target major freight bottlenecks and the Corridors of the Future Program, which is designed to advance major growth corridors that are in need of long-term investment. With a view toward the future, another article invites readers to explore the state of transportation in 2050.

With cooperation from Federal, State, local, private, and nonprofit partners and stakeholders, the transportation community can make a difference and achieve significant breakthroughs to reduce, and ultimately eliminate, congestion.

J. Richard Capka


Federal Highway Administration



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