Washington may be facing federal budget woes, but those who have jobs are finding commutes to work are getting easier, thanks to less congestion.
A new report from traffic-data distributor Inrix shows Washington-area residents wasted less time in traffic in 2012 compared with 2011 -- making Washington the ninth most-congested area in the nation, down from sixth in 2011.
D.C. residents and their immediate neighbors in Maryland and Virginia wasted 41 hours in traffic in 2012, down from 47 hours in 2011.
"It's a bit of good news for drivers," said Jim Bak, the report's author. "The pain you feel on the roads is a little bit better than it was."
|Worst cities for traffic congestion in 2012|
|1. Los Angeles|
|3. San Francisco|
|4. Austin, Texas|
|5. New York|
|6. Bridgeport, Conn.|
|7. San Jose, Calif.|
|Most congested corridors for 2012|
|1. New York: The Cross Bronx Expressway (I-95 southbound)|
|2. Los Angeles: The San Diego Freeway (I-405 southbound)|
|3. New York: The Van Wyck Expressway (I-678 southbound)|
|4. Los Angeles: The Santa Monica Freeway (I-10 eastbound)|
|5. Los Angeles: The Riverside Freeway (CA-91 eastbound)|
|21. I-95 southbound, from I-395 to Russell Road|
|31. Beltway inner loop, from I-95 to MD-650/New Hampshire Ave|
|65. Beltway outer loop, from US-1/Baltimore Ave to MD-97/Georgia Ave|
|69. I-66 eastbound, from VA-234/Prince William Parkway to the Key Bridge|
Inrix expects the decrease in congestion means bad news for the local economy, related to federal budget woes and sequestration.
"The continual budget deadlines and fiscal debates have caused many to take a 'wait and see' approach that's hurting employment and consumer spending. When combined with the across-the-board budget cuts effective March 1, traffic congestion is on the decline, indicating a stalled local economy," said Inrix traffic expert Jamie Holter.
From January to March this year, Washington-area traffic dropped by about 5 percent, while it went up nationwide by 4 percent, Bak said. The Washington area had 11 percent less traffic in March 2012 than it did in March 2011.
"We're also seeing declines in areas like Norfolk, Va., and San Antonio, Texas -- other areas that are known to be suppliers of the military," Bak said.
Inrix compiled the data from delivery vans, taxis, shuttles and Ford vehicles that use its real-time traffic services, as well government sensor data.
The company found that the region's most congested corridor was southbound Interstate 95 from Interstate 395 to Russell Road, where during a typical commute, it takes 53 minutes to go 23 miles at an average speed of 27 miles per hour. On the worst day, that drive can take an hour and a half and have an average speed of 15 miles per hour. Two sections of the Capital Beltway's Maryland side and a portion of Virginia's Interstate 66 also cracked the list of top 100 most congested corridors in the nation.
The report also found that 6 p.m. Thursday was the most congested hour of the week, and the most congested morning commute was Tuesday at 9 a.m.