We have often commented on the crippling traffic congestion in Frederick County and throughout the Washington region, noting that it was hurting the standard of living of current residents and harming future economic development.

Now comes the 2019 Urban Mobility Report to put hard numbers to the pain our commuters are suffering. The time and money lost by commuters within Frederick County are bad enough. But our friends and neighbors who leave the county every day to work in Montgomery County, Northern Virginia or Washington, D.C., are the worst victims of this congestion.

The study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute reported that commuters in the county lost 27 hours and $556 per vehicle commuter in 2017 because of traffic congestion. Those numbers represent lost time during rush-hour as opposed to making the same trip during off-hours.

Those are significant but not overwhelming numbers. The more shocking numbers are included in the report on the greater Washington region, which ranks in the study as the third worst traffic area in the country, only behind Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Even more alarming, the region is among the leaders in the country in use of mass transit. Shifting resources to mass transit while under-investing in highways does not work.

Overall, Washington commuters lost 102 hours and $1,840 per year due to congestion. Even those staggering numbers under estimate the reality for many Frederick residents who head south on Interstate 270 each morning.

Commutes from Frederick or New Market to the Rockville area can frequently take 90 minutes at rush hours for a drive that should be 30 minutes. If a commuter loses two hours each work day for a round trip, the cost would be two hours times five days a week for 48 weeks a year, or 480 hours.

Traveling to Bethesda, the District or Northern Virginia can take even longer.

The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reported in 2015 that 112,575 Frederick County residents were employed in primary payroll jobs. Of those, 23.9 percent — almost one in four — commuted to Montgomery County to work. An additional 5.8 percent traveled to Northern Virginia and 2.7 percent went all the way to the District. That is almost a third of the Frederick County workforce.

For comparison, fewer than four in 10 of workers living in the county — only 39.4 percent — stay in Frederick County to work.

We have supported the plans of Gov. Larry Hogan to add toll lanes to I-270 as a way to increase capacity, and we have called several times on the state to widen U.S. 15 which is clogged with traffic in both directions every morning and afternoon.

We need to do both of those projects as swiftly as is humanly possible, plus a whole lot more. We need more mass transit, more ride-sharing and we need to employ technology to improve traffic flow and help drivers. We need new solutions and better utilization of existing resources too.

We need to act before congestion strangles the life out of our region.

This is the chilling conclusion from the mobility report:

“Congestion is back to its growth pattern. The 8- to 10-year growing economy has brought traffic congestion to the highest measured levels in most U.S. cities. The myriad possible solutions — from more highways, streets and public transportation; better traffic operations; more travel options; new land development styles; advanced technology — have not worked.”

The report continues:

“Each region should use the combination of strategies that match its goals and vision. There is no panacea. And the decade-long recovery from economic recession has proven that the problem will not solve itself.”

(22) comments

Jeepers11md

the problem is the people from the city and Montgomery County have moved to Frederick County and southern PA for cheaper taxes and now Frederick County residents have to suffer for this, I see it every day traveling route 15 and route 270 the ignorant drivers that Maryland State Police and Frederick County Sherriff's department and Maryland Law makers that produce more and more stupid laws that people just ignore and create a very unsafe drive for us normal drivers. Everyday there is always an idiot that just has to get one car in front of someone driving normal and respectful just to make the exit a second earlier. People need to respect each other I don't care if you beat me to Gaithersburg by 5 minutes but I can tell you if you are in a commercial vehicle I DO report them so drive with some sense and respect and we all would get along fine

Lev928

Here is the problem ... tons of Montgomery County residents moved to lower Frederick County to take advantage of lower taxes and real estate costs. Now, those costs are being driven higher due to the same transplants and over-development that's occurring. Here's an idea ... force an extremely high tax on anyone moving IN TO Frederick County FROM Montgomery County. Make it retroactive. Make them pay for the problems that they AND the new Frederick County local government have created.

petersamuel

I came here from just outside Montgo Co, from NW DC, so I just escape the Lev928 tax surcharge. Phew, close one.

jschmersahl

A retroactive tax? Now there is a slippery slope .

rcfoster

The 9-5 workday is driving a lot of this problem. We all have to be there at 9. We all have to stay until 5. If there was more flexibility built into the businesses, it might alleviate some of it. The problem with building more and more lanes is that all those lanes go to the same DC beltway. If it was 10 lanes, we would all rush down 270 and get in a huge line trying to merge and get on the entrance ramps to the beltway.

ma23464

It seems the work day has expanded. I know several people that get to the office at 7 am or even 6. I knew some others that didn’t even leave for work until 930. It seems like rush hour is almost all day anymore.

That Guy Garcon

I would just like to see someone tackle the dang problem on Market street by TJ High School! Whoever had the great idea to shut down Gas House Pike, then allow them to shut down Market Street while doing the old Coca Cola Plant should be FIRED! How hard would it be to make it where you CAN NOT turn left on East Street from Market Street between the hours of 3-5pm? Finish Gas House Pike! It should not take 45minutes to get to Wegmans from Rose Hill Manor. That is plain ridiculous.

rmaghan1

Look how long it took the county to fix 15 and Hayward and you think they can fix 270? Laughable

gary4books

Attract retired residents. They do not drive to work. They hardly go to any place save church and the grocery store. They do not fill up the schools. And they will move into assisted living and then nursing homes and provide jobs for many. Most will putter around their homes and find work for all sorts of "handy people."

rmaghan1

Great idea, would work if MD wasn’t one of the top highest income taxing states in the US.

FCPS-Principal

Very reasons not to attract them. They generate no growth. They spend little and consume a lot. A retired community is a dead community.

MD1756

With more than 1/2 the local budgets (at least in Frederick and MoCo) going to public education, how is it seniors consume a lot? Seniors do spend money, they just spend it on different items. For example, seniors spend a lot on health care and those who planned well for retirement spend their money on more luxury items (higher profit items) or donate to charities (especially those with no children). At this point, with our significant adverse impact on the planet and other species, population growth is not good.

gary4books

MD - [thumbup][thumbup]

benedictus

Are you proposing building yet more housing? Or are you proposing that they'd displace existing families that would now have to commute even farther?

MD1756

One cheap solution is to reduce or eliminate policies that promote population growth. Dispel the myths that our economic problems are solved by job and population growth. Economic growth without population growth can be good (depends on the resources it take to achieve that growth and any potential harm such as environmental as a result of developing the resources), but when public resources aren't sufficient enough to meet current and future needs, more growth of the same mix is not good. The only growth that would be good is growing higher paying jobs while reducing lower paying jobs and that is not happening. Another quick change would be to eliminate income tax credits/deductions people get for having children (and before Dick comes in with his same tired comment that when I respond to, he never comes back with anything logical). That won't stop people from having children it will just make them pay the same taxes as everyone else since our public budgets don't really meet the current infrastructure needs even though the governments seem to keep adding new programs while existing ones deteriorate more and more. If someone is worried that there will not be people to take care of us in our old age, maybe we should encourage more immigration of educated people. Schooling expense would therefore be paid by another country and we could achieve greater diversification more quickly than now (for those who think that is important).

gary4books

So you want something logical? OK. Our problem started when people had good reason to move to Frederick for lower cost housing. I not only saved thousands on the house, but I also got extra tax breaks and even closing money. They paid me to move here in 2010. Now if we paid businesses and used political action to move workplaces to Frederick, the traffic would be local. That could fix many problems and more tax money from these businesses and workplaces could fix local roads. Is that not logical? I think so.

MD1756

Gary, I understand the moving to where you can afford to, I did the same moving to northern MoCo but worked in DC. I don't like cities so there is no way I'd live in one if I didn't have to (even if it cost me more to live where I have some land). I picked a place that I would be happy to be at when I retired. However, in your definition of the problem you ignored underlying reason prices went up closer to DC (and why they're going up in Frederick). The underlying problem is population growth. More people take up more land which raises prices. Even if you moved businesses you'd have the same problem you described (people who couldn't afford or who didn't want to live in the city would move further out, so in the end I believe it would achieve nothing except spend tax payers' dollars to move businesses. For an example, just look at what is starting to happen in the Crystal City/Arlington area because of the future Amazon facility. Property prices have already started to increase more quickly than some of the surrounding communities. If nothing changes, with population growth, Frederick county will eventually look like northern NJ. The only question is how long will it take to get there? The more children people have and the more businesses that move in will make it happen faster and it will be costly. I believe one of the cheapest solutions is to eliminate incentives for population growth.

gary4books

Population growth IS a problem, and areas like the DC Metro area can attract people in addition to the "normal" population growth. It is a factor to consider. However, if we did get half of the commuters to live closer to their work (for an example) they could save time and cut half of the cars on the road in the morning. (270 for an example) and that would be significant. Of course, it might move the problem further out, but small successes are better than none.

FCPS-Principal

Isn't it ridiculous how some people can't say "lane" without saying "toll"? That just removes all credibility of whatever they say in my mind. They are just quacks, that's all. Why not widen US-15 and put a toll on that too? Downtown Frederick is congested as well. How about a toll on Market street? Send these jerks packing and stop using taxpayer money to pay them to blather what we already know: traffic congestion is bad. That's all they really say.


Reader1954

as long as pay is better in other places than Frederick County people are going to commute. And as long as Frederick builds homes less expensive that other counties, people will commute. And finally as long as homes get built quicker than roads traffic will be a mess

FCPS-Principal

He-he. Even before I-70 was built the old "Frederick Bypass" was built along the current US-15 and I-70 path. Look at all the houses built since then! 'Bout time for another bypass around the bypass isn't it? Let's make them toll lanes!

gary4books

Let us make them irrelevant.

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