Good morning, Los Angeles! Once again, your traffic is backed up all over the place.
To this news, Angelenos are likely to respond: This morning and every other morning. So what, they’ll say, isn’t it always near gridlock?
Well, it’s said that misery likes company, and the big (or bad) news is that traffic is a ridiculous mess all over the place: in New York, and Austin, and Boston, and Seattle, and Houston, and Dallas, and Miami, and Atlanta, and Chicago, and Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
There aren’t enough roads, transit systems and walkable communities to handle America’s burgeoning population, one projected to grow by 70 million in the next 30 years.
A reminder of this came Monday with the release of the nation’s top 50 bottlenecks, those places in the road where traffic is pretty near guaranteed to be at a crawl or standstill too much of the time.
The worst in the land was judged to be on Interstate 90 in Chicago, where 12-mile backups are said to be common. The next six, however, and nine of the top 20, are in Los Angeles.
“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 of the American Highway Users Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that paid for the bottleneck study.
“While the rankings and specific bottleneck locations are important, this study has another important mission,” Cohen said. “We want to give a voice to drivers that are desperate for relief.”
Metropolitan New York is home to four of the top 20 bottlenecks. Among them is the infamous Lincoln Tunnel. Austin snares the final spot in the top 10 with its perpetual troubles on I-35. San Francisco’s I-80 gets a nod. Boston’s I-93 is at No. 15. Seattle’s I-5 and Miami’s Palmetto Expressway both make the top 20.
The nation’s capital finishes at or near the top whenever overall congestion is measured, but when it comes to pure bottlenecks, the best the region could do was 26th, for I-395 between Washington Boulevard and the George Washington Parkway. Two other Washington-area roads — I-495 at the Dulles Toll Road and I-395 between Duke Street and Edsall Road — made it into the top 50.
Bottlenecks cause more than fuming and frustration. Zeroing in on the 30 worst choke points, analysts for the Users Alliance concluded that if they endure for another 20 years, they will:
●Cost $39 billion in lost time.
●Burn 830 million gallons of fuel.
●Produce more than 17 billion pounds of greenhouse-gas emissions.
●Result in 211,000 vehicle crashes.
In remarks prepared for Monday’s delivery of the Users Alliance report, “Unclogging America’s Arteries 2015,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx pointed toward a transportation bill now in conference committee on Capitol Hill.
“The good news is that this problem is solvable, and Congress can be part of the solution,” Foxx said. “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.”
The study draws on data used by the Federal Highway Administration to pinpoint the major choke points and is a follow-up to a report issued over 10 years ago. Bottlenecks were ranked based on backups in both directions over the entire day, not just one direction during rush hours.