Back-seat Driver: Americans keep cutting back on driving

Published: Friday, Aug. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 - 2:27 pm

America's love affair with cars has cooled.

That's what the California Public Interest Research Group proclaimed on Thursday.

The consumer advocacy coalition released a study showing that Americans have been consistently cutting back on the number of miles they drive for the last half-dozen years.

The trend started earlier in a few states, including California, where individual driving mileage peaked in 1999. Drivers here travel 8 percent fewer miles now than they did then.

In fact, despite the size of our state, Californians drive on average just 9,000 miles a year, ranking the state a mere 40th nationally.

Some of the reduced mileage is no doubt due to the mid-2000s recession that left many people sitting at home instead of driving to and from work.

But the turnaround started in most states long before the recession. The earliest were California, Oregon, Washington and a few others more than a decade ago.

We've definitely heard more drivers talking in recent years about gas prices, congestion, commute lengths, carbon footprints and climate change.

CalPIRG says young adults are most apt to use alternatives to cars when getting around daily.

Government "should push the reset button" and try to encourage those attitudes by building more walkable and bikable urban-style neighborhoods, CalPIRG's Garo Manjikian said.

I-5 interchange …

People may be driving less, but they're still driving plenty, and Sacramento area governments are busy with road expansion projects to accommodate that.

One of the largest is the $100 million freeway interchange on Interstate 5 near the town of Freeport, combined with a major western extension of Cosumnes River Boulevard.

The interchange and boulevard will open next year, creating a new cross road between Highway 99 and I-5. But commuters have little reason to cheer. The interchange is the prelude to some major new housing developments. That means thousands more cars, ultimately, on I-5.

… I-5 closure

Early warning: The interchange project will require two partial I-5 closures south of Pocket Road in the coming weeks.

Next Saturday night and Sunday morning, Sept. 7 and 8, the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans will redirect northbound traffic onto a single lane on the southbound side of the freeway. Southbound traffic will be reduced as well to one lane.

The redirection period will be from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m.

That will allow crews to put temporary construction structures up over the northbound lanes. There will be a second overnight closure the following Saturday.

Call The Bee's Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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