Thursday, January 29, 2009

Traffic declining, freeways expanding

Traffic in Orlando is declining, according to HNTB, which is profiting from designing unneeded freeway lanes in Wisconsin, where driving also has dropped. Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Doyle wants to allow the gas tax to increase without legislative votes and is proposing to waste stimulus money on the ill-considered plan to expand North-South I-94 (a project pumping millions into HNTB's coffers).

Oh, by coincidence, HNTB is a major contributor to Gov. Doyle's campaign and inauguration funds.

Government and firms that buy government at work.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

Traffic continues to fall on greater Orlando toll roads -- yet another sign of the region's deepening economic crisis.

Tolls paid to drive on the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority's network of highways have dropped 8 percent in the past year, and agency managers do not expect a turnaround any time soon.

The authority, which operates 100 miles of toll roads, decided Monday to cut its budget by almost 11 percent to make ends meet. Even more reductions could be in store if traffic decreases further.

"Happy, happy, joy, joy," authority chairman Rich Crotty said sarcastically.

Traffic and revenue have been falling year over year since March. Crotty and agency analysts peg the drops more to job losses than gas prices, which peaked last year at more than $4 a gallon but have since fallen below $2. The jobless rate in greater Orlando, meanwhile, has steadily risen to 7.7 percent.

"It's the economy across the board, with an emphasis on unemployment," said Crotty, who is also Orange County's mayor.

People, he said, do not drive as much when they do not have a job. As proof, he pointed to a chart, compiled by traffic consultant HNTB, showing traffic consistently remaining below last year's numbers even as the price of gasoline fell to near $1.50 a gallon, before rising this month.

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