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Study says Washington region needs more highways

February 24, 1997

WASHINGTON (AP) _ More residents of the nation’s capital region get to work via car pool or public transit than almost anywhere else in America, but rush hours take longer, according to a report Monday.

Why?

A chronic shortage of highways, the Greater Washington Board of Trade concluded in its report.

``I get very worried when I think about the future,″ said Board of Trade Chairman John Tydings. ``It almost goes without saying that there is something broken here that needs to be fixed.″

The report also offers a quick look back on the consequences of two decades of crucial development decisions in which, the board says, local politicians often bowed to environmental protests or objections from residents who didn’t want new highway systems plowed through their neighborhoods.

``Now, after all this time, it’s getting worse _ and we’re in a situation that’s sort of like trying to turn back the Titanic,″ said Robert Grow, a Board of Trade transportation analyst.

In the early 1960s, regional planners offered fairly accurate predictions about how the region’s population would swell by the mid-1990s and suggested building three concentric highways to handle the increased traffic flow.

But only one was built _ the much-maligned Capital Beltway, where motorists circling the capital often find themselves moving at a snail’s pace.

Among the study’s key findings:

_Underscoring the huge increase in suburb-to-suburb commuting, 634,000 more workers used area highways in 1990 than 10 years earlier; 515,000 of them were traveling from one suburb to another.

_Traffic volume on the beltway has skyrocketed, jumping an average of 35 percent between 1985 and 1993.

_The region ranks 36th among the nation’s 40 largest metropolitan areas in terms of total highway miles, although it is ranks fifth in population.

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