CINCINNATI - Jack Stewart wasn't surprised Tuesday when he learned of a new report stating that traffic gridlock costs Greater Cincinnati commuters and trucking companies millions of lost hours and dollars each year.
After all, Stewart is on the highways daily in his job with the Osborne Trucking Company in Fairfield. He sees congestion that costs him at least two hours of time per day.
"It's very difficult," he said. "Traffic's heavy usually down by the Brent Spence Bridge and the exit areas near the bridge."
The Urban Mobility Report from the Texas A&M Traffic Institute said that the total cost of congestion for the Tri-State is $947 million.
The report said the average Cincinnati area commuter is stuck in traffic for 37 hours each year and wastes 18 gallons of gasoline in the process.
That translates to a cost per consumer of $814, but the price goes up when the impact to logistics firms is added in.
Texas A&M researchers found that trucking companies in Southwestern Ohio, Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana lost over three million hours of time at a cost of $230 million.
Osborne Trucking Company President Brad Osborne said he didn't need a new study to know that traffic backups have a big impact on his bottom line.
"For the gridlock and the time stuck in traffic, it can cost us up to $400,000 a year in fuel, drivers' time and everything," he said. "Also, extra wear and tear on the trucks."
Osborne said he winds up passing that cost on to consumers.
"It increases our rates," he said.
For example, Osborne said his drivers do just-in-time delivery for a Cincinnati brewery and have to maintain a tight schedule for the firm's production line. The potential for gridlock is a daily reality.
"We sometimes have to send a driver down with the first load and then have guys shuttle trailers to him," he said. "That adds extra cost to the operation."
The Urban Mobility Report also suggests solutions to the problem, including adding more metered lanes to interstate highways to control the flow of traffic, building more high occupancy vehicle lanes and better timing of traffic signals.
Mark Polincinski, CEO and Executive Director of the OKI Regional Council of Governments, said the gridlock problem has to be fixed because of the impact it has on the local economy.
"It prevents jobs from expanding here, companies getting larger and larger and it's one of the reasons why companies would refuse to locate in an economy where congestion is really bad," he said.
Polincinski said there are a number of big projects in the works to try and curb congestion.
The most notable is the $2.7 billion replacement for the Brent Spence Bridge. A "Value For Money" study is underway to determine how to pay for it and how much tolling needs to be a part of that.
Preliminary results are due within a few weeks with the final report expected to be completed in April
Other major projects include constructing the I-71 interchange at Martin Luther King Boulevard in Cincinnati and building the Eastern Corridor project.
According to Polincinski, those three projects could save an estimated 50 million vehicle miles traveled every year.
However, he added there are a number of smaller things that can be done such as carpooling, vanpooling and using mass transit.
The Ohio Department of Transportation is addressing congestion with its major construction program, according to District 8 spokesperson Sharon Smigielski.
The biggest of those is improving I-75 with the Millcreek Expressway Project. Upgrades are currently underway in the Mitchell Avenue area.
Projects to add extra lanes to I-75 in Butler and Warren County have already been completed.
Smigielski wrote in an e-mail, "ODOT District 8 aggressively pursues safety funds for construction projects. With nearly 50 safety projects under development for Fiscal Year 13 -- Fiscal Year 17, ODOT District 8 has consistently been successful in obtaining safety funds for spot improvements."
"In summary," she wrote, "ODOT District 8 is always looking for ways to improve safety and reduce crashes and does so by focusing funds on the routes with the best chances for improvement. We rely on new technology to monitor traffic conditions."
Copyright 2013 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.