A Reason Foundation report finds that reducing traffic congestion and improving travel times could boost the Salt Lake City's economic output by up to $700 million a year.
The Reason Foundation report examines the impact that population growth and longer commute times will have on five areas across the Salt Lake area by 2030: EnergySolutions Arena, Brigham Young University, Fashion Place Mall, American Fork, and Salt Lake International Airport.
Of those locations, the Reason study says the biggest economic gains would come from eliminating severe congestion around suburbs such as American Fork, which could add up to $700 million a year to the regional economy.
Salt Lake should be excited that it has the least traffic congestion among the eight cities studied and it has the fewest road capacity needs over the next 20 years. The Reason Foundation study takes an in-depth look at traffic and economic growth in Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle.
"This report shows how important it is to prioritize taxpayer money on infrastructure projects with the best benefit-cost ratios," said Adrian Moore, vice president of research at Reason Foundation. "If you focus on the projects proven to improve mobility and eliminate traffic jams, your investment will be rewarded several times over. Shorter travel times increase worker productivity, spawn more jobs and help create more shopping, entertainment and dining choices."
"We studied eight regions and the findings are clear," said David Hartgen, author of the report, senior fellow at Reason Foundation and emeritus professor of transportation at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "Reducing traffic congestion by 10 percent improves productivity by over one percent. One percent may sound small, but in a city like Salt Lake, it can mean hundreds of millions of dollars in economic gains. The biggest gains come from enhancing mobility around suburbs, universities and malls. Smaller economic increases are made around central business districts and airports."
The study makes several recommendations, including:
- Pay more attention to the accessibility of various locations, not just downtown.
- Remove bottlenecks throughout the region. Relatively modest expenditures can have major impact on travel times, particularly if congestion is relatively concentrated geographically.
- Add road capacity in and around the rims of cities. Investment in suburban accessibility often offers a very good return rate.
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Chris Mitchell, Director of Communications, Reason Foundation, (310) 367-6109