A new report has identified the 50 worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, and none in the Twin Cities area made the list.
The nation’s worst chokepoint can be found on I-90 — the Kennedy Expressway — in Chicago between the I-290 Circle Interchange and Edens junction at I-94, according to the American Highway Users Alliance. Its study, “Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015,” found that the backup there extends 12 miles and annually costs motorists 16.9 million hours of lost time and 6.3 million gallons of wasted fuel.
Big cities across the nation dominated the list. Los Angeles led with 12, followed by New York City with nine, and three each in the Windy City, Washington D.C., Boston, Houston, Dallas and Miami. Checking in with two apiece: Atlanta, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. There were a few surprises, too — Norfolk, Va.; Austin, Texas, and Tampa, Fla. — places that don’t normally come to mind when you think of traffic-ridden cities.
The fact that none of our local highways or freeways cracked the top 50 doesn’t mean we are problem-free, said Greg Cohen, the alliance’s CEO and president. It’s just that other cities have more people and more cars. That translates into more time lost in congestion and backups that are more severe than ours.
“The study was skewed to huge cities, and that is why cities like Chicago and Los Angeles dominate,” he said. “That does not mean there isn’t bad traffic. It’s in every state. Everywhere has it.”
An appendix to the study says I-94 in Minneapolis, between West River Parkway and Cedar Avenue, is the state’s worst pinch point. A segment of Hwy. 169 between the Crosstown and Valley View Road in Edina was second worst. Motorists caught in the daily jams on I-94 at the Lowry Hill Tunnel or crawling along I-35W between downtown Minneapolis and Burnsville may dispute those rankings. East metro drivers could make the case for I-694 through Shoreview.
But our traffic jams are short-lived compared to metro areas where “they don’t distinguish between morning and afternoon rush hours since they have a constant rush hour from morning to night,” said John Hourdos of the University of Minnesota Traffic Observatory. “We are still thankfully in the three hours in the morning and four hours in the evening.”
Advocating highway funding
The point of the report, which used data from the Federal Highway Administration, was to urge Congress to pass a long-term highway funding bill, now tied up in negotiations. That would be a start, but not a cure-all, Hourdos said.
“There is a no-win formula without removing vehicles from the road and hav[ing] people satisfy their transportation needs in some other way,” Hourdos said. “The problem is not car ownership, it is the car itself and the space it takes on the road. Anything being done to improve our time and experience inside our vehicles may be good on a personal level (temporarily), but it is bad for the whole since it keeps us captive to that mode instead of exploring and demanding improvements on more efficient solutions like transit.”
So the next time you are in gridlock, remember, you could be someplace where it’s a lot worse.