Minneapolis-St.Paul is now the 10th worst city in the nation when it comes traffic congestion, according to results of a national traffic study released by today by the Washington-based firm Inrix, but the news isn't as grim as it sounds.

Traffic congestion in the Twin Cities actually dropped by 20 percent last year when compared with levels reported in 2007 following a trend nationally in which congestion decreased by 30 percent, the second annual National Traffic Scoreboard found.

"On average, Americans spent 13 hours less stuck in traffic in 2008 versus 2007," said Bryan Mistele, president and CEO of INRIX, the company that analyzed traffic patterns on highways in the 100 most congested metropolitan areas. "While less traffic is generally good news, the causes of it aren't necessarily something to celebrate."

The study attributed the national drop in congestion to rising foreclosure and unemployment rates, and higher fuel prices during part of 2008.

The Twin Cities ranked 13th on Inrix's 2007 survey, but moved up three spots to No. 10 mainly because congestion dropped at a faster clip in cities such as San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and Phoenix. It also cited the traffic problems that resulted from the Interstate Hwy. 35W bridge being closed while it rebuilt as a factor contributing to local congestion.

Los Angeles supplanted New York at the most congested city in the United States. The Big Apple ranked No. 2 followed by Chicago at No. 3, Dallas-Ft. Worth at No. 4 and Washington D.C. at No. 5. Ranking sixth through 10 were Houston, San Francisco, Boston, Seattle-Tacoma and the Twin Cities.

Overall, congestion dropped in 99 of the 100 cities surveyed, with only Baton Rouge, La., seeing an increase in congestion. It ranked 33rd. The travel time index also declined from 1.13 in 2007 to 1.09 in 2008. Travel time index of 1.09 means that during peak driving times a random traveler on a random trip on the roads analyzed took 9 percent extra time, on average, than if there was no congestion. The Twin Cities' travel time index was 1.13, or higher than the national average, the study said.

The worst time to drive in Minneapolis-St. Paul is between 5 and 6 p.m. Thursdays when roads are most congested, according to the report.

Like most metropolitan areas, the Twin Cities has its share of bottlenecks, which the report defined as times when average hourly speed is half or less than the uncongested speed for that segment of road. Minneapolis' worst bottleneck is the be Interstate Hwy 494 and Hwy. 169 in Eden Prairie and the I 494 interchange with Hwy. 5. The Hwy. 100 at Normandale Blvd. interchange was identified by the report as the second worst. Other bad spots included westbound I-494 at Lyndale Avenue in Bloomington, eastbound 494 at France Avenue, southbound I-35W from 11th to 17th Av. in downtown Minneapolis, and Crosstown Hwy. 62 construction zone. None of the nation's 100 worst bottlenecks were located in Minnesota.