The average commute in Utah is shorter than what most of the nation faces each day, but it will get worse unless more money is given to projects that help relieve congestion, according to two reports released this week.

The first report, by the Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation, said that over the next 25 years, traffic in Salt Lake City will become worse than Chicago or San Francisco unless new roads and transit are funded. It recommended that $2.3 billion be spent on congestion relief in Utah's most urban areas.

Across the nation, a total of $533 billion is needed to relieve congestion, the report said. And time spent in traffic in the United States will increase 65 percent over the next 25 years unless more money is given to efforts to ease traffic.

The second report, by the U.S. Census Bureau, said that last year, Utah had the 11th shortest commute time in the nation, with motorists spending an average of about 20.5 minutes on the road each day. Nationally, average daily commute times were down from 25.5 minutes six years ago to 25.1 minutes last year.

"We should all hold a celebration," said Alan Pisarski, author of "Commuting in America," in an interview with the Associated Press.

The Census report said that Vineland, N.J., had the nation's longest average commute time, at 39.6 minutes. The area around New York City had the second-longest commute, while Los Angeles ranked 16th in the nation for commute time.

Sen. Sheldon Killpack, R-Syracuse, said Wednesday that the reports weren't surprising. Utahns have known for years that transportation improvements need to be funded, he said. And the Salt Lake metropolitan area has yet to reach build-out like some cities, so there's still room for travel times and population to grow.

"You really have to be completely incoherent not to recognize the growth of what's happened with congestion in the state," Killpack said.

John B. Townsend II, a spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic in Washington, told the Associated Press that he didn't agree with the Census report's assertion that commute times were going down. He thought the numbers may indicate that more jobs are moving into suburban areas.

"Even with these numbers, we swear up and down that we are spending more time in our cars," Townsend said.


E-mail: nwarburton@desnews.com