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AAA: Defense Furloughs Could Mean Less Traffic

By Aaron Kraut

Tuesday - 7/9/2013, 11:00am  ET

Afternoon rush hour on Rockville Pike near Walter Reed National Military Medical Center

Sequestration furloughs for federal workers started on Monday, which could mean lower traffic volumes and less gridlock this summer in the Washington area.

AAA Mid-Atlantic says the large-scale Defense Department furloughs will likely translate into shorter traffic delays, fewer collisions and an easier commute than the summer months usually allow.

“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs, in a press release.

The entire area has a federal civilian labor force of about 451,000 which combined with contractors makes up nearly 13 percent of the workforce in the Washington metro area. Furloughed workers will be forced to take one or two days off per pay period until September. More than 2,300 Walter Reed hospital workers, or 94 percent of the staff, will be furloughed starting this month. Workers will be forced to take 11 unpaid days.

AAA says this means traffic volumes could dip on I-95/I-395 and the Beltway. About 48 percent of the region’s jobs are located in the inner suburbs of Montgomery, Fairfax and Prince George’s Counties, according to the Transportation Planning Board.

But even workers who head into Washington D.C. each day (it’s the destination for the majority of Marylanders who work out of state) could notice the effects of government furloughs on rush hour.

Federal workers comprise nearly 40 percent of Metro riders, according to AAA, and 35 Metro stations serve federal facilities.

“The nation’s capital, which has the largest net increase in daytime population in the nation, will be at the epicenter of the likely decrease in the commute, as fewer federal government workers and contractors stream into the city on furlough days,” Townsend II said.