Initiative needed that would save lives,
cut air pollution, reduce travel delays
From the American Highway Users Alliance
WASHINGTON, D.C. As Congressional debate continues
on long-overdue highway legislation needed to fund road and
bridge improvement projects for the next six years, a new
report is sparking added urgency by ranking the nations
worst highway bottlenecks.
The report, an update of a study originally conducted in
1999, specifically quantifies how these traffic chokepoints
burden the public with severe delays, degraded safety, worsened
air quality and wasted fuel consumption, and it details the
major benefits that will accrue from uncorking the bottlenecks.
According to the study, Unclogging Americas Arteries:
Effective Relief for Highway Bottlenecks (1999-2004), targeting
funds to fix major bottlenecks will reduce the amount
of time commuters have to spend on the road, save thousands
of lives, prevent hundreds of thousands of injuries and help
us safeguard the environment. Cambridge Systematics,
a well-respected transportation research firm, produced both
todays updated study and the original report for the
American Highway Users Alliance.
The good news is theres hope for curing congestion
on our highways, said Diane Steed, president and CEO
of the Highway Users.
While this update clearly shows that gridlock has grown
over the past five years, motorists in cities that have moved
aggressively to unclog bottlenecks are reaping the benefits
of improved traffic flow. However, federal highway funding
thats critically needed to finance these improvement
projects will expire in ten days, and Congress must act to
provide congestion relief nationwide.
In 1999, the original Unclogging study identified 167 major
highway bottlenecks in 30 states plus the District of Columbia
where drivers experience at least 700,000 annual hours of
Using the same methodology and delay criteria, todays
report finds that severe traffic chokepoints have increased
to a total of 233 bottlenecks in 33 states plus the District,
a 40 percent increase.
Despite growing congestion, the study provides powerful evidence
that gridlock is not inevitable and that making transportation
improvements yields major tangible benefits.
Seven of the top 18 bottlenecks identified five years ago
including hot spots in Albuquerque, Denver and Houston
no longer appear on the ranking because major reconstruction
projects are either completed or underway at those sites.
In Albuquerque alone, drivers have regained more than 15 million
hours annually since 2002 that would have otherwise been wasted
sitting in traffic at the I-40/I-25 interchange, also known
as the Big I.
While there is no single solution for reducing congestion,
these success stories show that fixing traffic bottlenecks
is a critical starting point, continued Steed. The report
recommends a balanced, comprehensive approach to tackling
congestion citing improved transit, carpooling, high-tech
traffic management systems, reversible commuter lanes with
movable barriers and additional road capacity as key to the
In addition to profiling successful improvements since the
1999 ranking, todays report finds that modest improvements
aimed at bringing traffic flow to minimum acceptable levels
at all 233 bottlenecks would, over the 20-year life of the
The study also provides detailed case studies on the nations
worst 24 bottlenecks where drivers experience at least 10
million hours of delay annually at each site. These top 24
are located in 13 metropolitan areas: Atlanta, Chicago, Cincinnati,
Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Providence, San
Diego, San Jose, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C.
Using analytic modeling methods developed by Cambridge Systematics,
the report estimates significant gains in safety, air quality,
fuel conservation and travel time at each site over the 20-year
life of the improvements, despite factoring in additional
delays during reconstruction and annual traffic growth projected
by the appropriate state transportation department.
For each of the worst 24 bottlenecks where specific congestion
fixes are planned, Cambridge Systematics modeled the benefits
based on actual improvements designed by the state transportation
department. At sites where repairs are under consideration
but not officially on the books, the report conservatively
analyzed hypothetical improvements that would raise traffic
flow to a minimum acceptable level.
A fundamental step towards fixing Americas worst
bottlenecks is passage of a new six-year transportation reauthorization
bill, concluded Steed. For the sake of public
safety, an improved environment and a better quality of life,
Congress should act quickly and dedicate significant funding
to fixing these chokepoints.
The American Highway Users Alliance represents motorists,
truckers, bus companies and a broad cross-section of businesses
that depend on safe and efficient highways to transport their
families, customers, employees, and products. Highway Users
members pay the taxes that finance the federal highway program
and advocate public policies that dedicate those taxes to
improved highway safety and mobility.
Note: Starting at noon on Feb. 19, 2004, Unclogging Americas
Arteries: Effective Relief for Highway Bottlenecks will be
available in its entirety, along with detailed information
on each of the nations top 24 traffic chokepoints, on
the web at www.highways.org.