TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT: Highway study unveils 50 worst bottlenecks in U.S.

List includes some usual suspects and a few unfortunate surprises

November 24, 2015

A new study released this week by the American Highway Users Alliance identifies America’s 50 worst bottlenecks and finds that the very worst bottleneck, as measured by hours of delay, is in Chicago, Ill. Los Angeles, Calif., owns the next six of the top 10.

Speaking at the American Highway Users Alliance press conference, 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. As a long-term surface transportation bill moves through 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.”

In the top-ranked Chicago chokepoint, on the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) between the Circle Interchange (I-290) and Edens junction (I-94), the bottleneck was found to extend 12 miles, costing motorists 16.9 million hours’ worth of time, equivalent to $418 million in 2014. More than 6.3 million gallons of fuel is wasted on I-90 while cars idle or crawl in traffic. By just fixing America’s worst bottleneck, an annual reduction of 133 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions would also be likely, the study found.

Besides identifying and ranking the nation’s 50 worst traffic bottlenecks, the study, Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015, examined the top 30 chokepoints closely and details many of the major benefits that will accrue to society by fixing them. In addition to improving mobility and quality of life for motorists, fixing the top 30 bottlenecks alone would, over 20 years:

  • Save $39 billion due to lost time;
  • Save 830 million gal of fuel;
  • Reduce over 17 billion lb of greenhouse gas emissions (CO2); and
  • Prevent 211,000 vehicle crashes.

“These findings are critically important and 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,” said Greg Cohen, President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance, in a statement.

The study’s top 50 bottleneck list includes trouble spots in the following metropolitan areas: 12 in Los Angeles, 9 in and around New York City, 3 in Chicago, 3 near Washington D.C., 3 in Houston, 3 in Boston, 3 in Dallas, 3 in Miami, 2 in Atlanta, 2 in Philadelphia and 2 in San Francisco/Oakland. Surprises included Austin breaking into the top 30 list at number 10, and Norfolk, Va., and Tampa, Fl., places that one might not expect to compete in the big leagues of bottlenecks, coming in at 38th and 45th, respectively.