Highway Users’ Study Ranks Worst Traffic Bottlenecks, Eyes Big Savings in Repairs

AASHTO Journal, 4 December 2015

A new study released by the American Highway Users Alliance identifies the nation’s 50 worst road traffic choke points, and counts up major economic, environmental and safety benefits that would come from fixing them.

The report found that the single worst bottleneck is on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, where backups extend for 12 miles and drivers experience nearly 17 million hours of combined delay per year or $418 million worth of time lost in congestion.

The next six bottlenecks among the 10 worst are all in Los Angeles, followed by two in the New York City area. The 10th is in Austin, Texas.

The report said that repairing the 30 worst choke points would over two decades save $39 billion in lost time costs plus 830 million gallons of fuel burned in stalled traffic and thereby eliminate more than 17 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. It would also prevent 211,000 vehicle crashes, the report estimated.

Alliance President Greg Cohen said the findings “mean that our nation will derive huge benefits from fixing the worst gridlock in our nation’s highway system – benefits that go way beyond improving mobility for highway users.”

Speaking at a Nov. 23 press conference to unveil the study, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said: “This report furthers the unassailable truth that America is stuck in traffic. The good news is that this problem is solvable, and Congress can be part of the solution.”

He noted that a long-term surface transportation bill was at that point moving through a House-Senate conference. “I urge our elected leaders to provide the funding growth and policies that are necessary to improve commutes, to raise the bar for safety, and to keep the country moving in the 21st century,” Foxx said.

Cohen said a new highway bill will be “a tremendous opportunity to fix the trouble spots that cause motorists and truckers daily frustration, idling engines that waste fuel and emit greenhouse gases.”

Bud Wright, executive director of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, said states have already been ramping up their project spending to improve infrastructure and the mobility of people and freight.

Since the last federal highway bill in 2012, he said, “states have stepped up” and invested billions of additional dollars in transportation systems. “State DOTs get it,” Wright said.

Former Kansas Governor Bill Graves, who chairs the alliance and is president of the American Trucking Associations, called the study “a huge reminder of the very high costs of neglecting our nation’s transportation infrastructure. We hope this report will be one more huge wake-up call to our nation’s leaders about the importance of addressing our critical highway needs.”

Here is a Transportation TV video on that event:


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