Georgia is home to the fifth most congested city in the United States, Atlanta, where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.46. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 46 percent longer than during off-peak times. The only drivers who experience worse traffic are those in Washington, DC (1.51), San Francisco (1.54), Chicago (1.57), and Los Angeles (1.75).
However, unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in the Atlanta area can expect to see a TTI of 1.85 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays worse than present-day Los Angeles.
Atlanta could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 2,600 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $13.1 billion in today's dollars. This includes the costs of adding 10 percent of the new capacity by building elevated roadways and tunnels, which will be necessary in a densely settled location like Atlanta. Atlanta has already made significant steps toward the congestion reduction goal by setting congestion reduction targets and selecting projects to reduce congestion.
This investment would save an estimated 272 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Atlanta traffic, at a cost of just $1.92 per delay-hour saved. This does not account for the additional benefits not quantified in this study, including: lower fuel use, reduced accident rates and vehicle operating costs, lower shipping costs and truck travel time reductions, greater freight reliability, and a number of benefits associated with greater community accessibility, including an expanded labor pool for employers and new job choices for workers.
While $13.1 billion may sound like an unattainably large investment, it is actually only 25 percent of the amount that the Atlanta area's Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) already plans to spend in their long-range transportation plan. The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), the region's MPO, plans to spend approximately $53 billion during the next 25 years�$29.6 billion on highway improvements, $21.5 billion on mass transit, and $1.9 billion on other projects. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system. Just 3.7 percent of Atlanta commuters now use mass transit and yet, transit accounts for 41 percent of the region's transportation spending.
As Table 16 shows, the other urban areas in Georgia with populations over 50,000 are substantially less congested than Atlanta. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is actually higher than that for Atlanta. (The 'delay' in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) In Atlanta, the expected increase in traffic delay from 2003 to 2030 is 85 percent. However, all other smaller urban area in Georgia listed in Table 16 can expect an increase in delay of 100 percent or more, which will be sharply felt by local commuters. With projected TTIs of 1.08�1.10, cities like Albany, Macon, and Columbus are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in the much larger cities of Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, respectively.
This information is excerpted from A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs and Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America's Cities: How Much and at What Cost?
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