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Report: D-FW motorists lose 2 days a year stuck in traffic

North Texas motorists still waste 48 hours a year stuck in traffic, and although congestion has declined since 2006, freeways and city streets will likely become choked again once the economy improves.

Those are among the key findings in the 2010 urban mobility report, which is to be formally released today by the Texas Transportation Institute at Texas A&M University. The report, issued nearly annually since 1984, is a comprehensive look at traffic patterns in 439 U.S. urban areas.

This time, researchers used data from INRIX, a company that specializes in navigational software. The firm collects real-time data to determine how long people with GPS devices sit in traffic. The new data replaces the older methods used to gauge the impact of traffic, which included estimates from state transportation departments and less-reliable highway speed monitors embedded in road pavement.

"By combining the traffic speed data from INRIX with the traffic volume data from the states, we are now able to provide a much better and more detailed picture of the problems facing urban travelers," researcher Tim Lomax said in a statement.

Other highlights:

In Dallas-Fort Worth, motorists lost two full days of their lives while stuck in traffic, the fifth-highest in the nation. The Metroplex also has the fifth-largest population, with a little more than 5 million residents. The data is based on travel in 2009, the most recent year available.

Public transportation fell to its lowest level since 2004 in North Texas. Bus and rail users racked up a collective 471 million miles in 2009, down from the region's peak of nearly 505 million miles in 2007.

Metroplex motorists burned an average of 38 gallons of fuel while stuck in traffic, either while idling or engaging in stop-and-go maneuvers. That was the seventh-worst amount nationally. Across the country, motorists waste 3.9 billion gallons of fuel while idling and waiting for gridlock to ease -- enough to fill the Trans-Alaska Pipeline for 130 days.

Congestion costs U.S. commuters an average of $808 a year, including lost productivity.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

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