If there's one thing that everyone can agree to hate, it's traffic congestion. But as much as we dislike it, most of us view it as a necessary inconvenience and nothing more. The reality is that congestion has a serious impact on our economy, whether we are aware of it or not.
First and foremost, congestion makes Tampa Bay a less attractive place for businesses by increasing the cost of doing business in our community. This cost applies to both people and freight, but it is the effect on the freight movement that is the most costly. In the Tampa Bay region, trucks move 70% of our total freight tonnage (Tampa Bay Regional Goods Movement Study, FDOT) and all other modes rely on trucks at some point in the goods movement process. Every minute that a truck spends sitting in traffic instead of making progress towards their destination costs a company in time, fuel, and operating expenses. Trucks are critical to the manufacturing process, with deliveries timed very specifically. A delayed truck can lead to a stop in production, magnifying the cost of delay far beyond the delay itself. Nationally, in 2009, the cost of freight congestion was $33 billion (Urban Mobility Report 2010, Texas Transportation Institute). This figure only includes the cost of time, fuel, and operating expenses and does not include the domino effect of delayed shipments on a business.
While this statistic is frightening in and of itself ($33 billion spent on congestion is $33 billion that could have been spent elsewhere in the economy) it represents more than just lost economic investment. Much if not all of this added cost is passed on to consumers. While we don't often think about it, some percentage of the cost of everything we buy is determined by the cost to get it to us. This means that congestion is not only a personal inconvenience (wasting time, increasing fuel and vehicle costs, etc.), it also impacts your wallet less directly by raising the price of every single thing you buy.
The need for trucks to move freely throughout our region's roadway network will only increase as our ports prepare for the expansion of the Panama Canal. Taking steps to address congestion will help improve mobility, making us more attractive to businesses and reducing the cost to consumers.