Study shows bottlenecks are on the rise

News AASHTO Journal February 24, 2004
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The number of U

The number of U.S. metropolitan areas suffering from traffic congestion and gridlock continues its rise to the point where safety, air quality and wasted fuel are decreasing American's quality of life, according to an updated study released by the American Highway Users Alliance.

In its first update since 1999, the Unclogging America's Arteries: Effective Relief for Highway Bottlenecks study states that the number of traffic bottlenecks rose to 233 in 33 states and the District of Columbia in 2004, a 40% increase over the 1999 findings using the same methodology.

The study notes that 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."

The study further notes that some cities cited in 1999 as having major gridlock problems that underwent congestion-relief road projects fell off the list in 2004. "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."

Albuquerque 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."

The AHUA study states that modest improvements aimed at bringing traffic flow to minimum acceptable levels at all 233 bottlenecks would, over the 20-year life of the improved projects:

* Prevent more than 449,500 crashes, including 1,750 fatalities and 220,500 injuries;

* Cut pollution at the bottlenecks in half, reducing smog-causing volatile organic compounds by nearly 50% and carbon monoxide by 54%;

* Slash emissions of carbon dioxide by 77% at those sites;

* Conserve more than 40 billion gal of fuel; and

* Reduce rush hour delays by an average of 16 minutes per trip.

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