North Carolina has two cities that currently suffer from severe congestion, which this study identifies as areas with Travel Time Indices (TTIs) of 1.18 or higher. The Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham areas are the 26th and 42nd most congested regions in the United States, with TTIs of 1.31 and 1.19, respectively. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 31 and 19 percent longer than during off-peak times.
Unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in these parts of North Carolina can expect to see TTIs of 1.62 and 1.37 by 2030. For an idea of how severe these levels of congestion would be, projections for Charlotte are greater than traffic delays in any city in the United States but present-day Los Angeles, and those for Raleigh-Durham are equivalent to present-day Baltimore and San Jose. But North Carolina can significantly reduce these congestion problems by adding about 4,350 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $12.4 billion in today's dollars.
This investment would save an estimated 68 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Tar Heel traffic, at a cost of $7.23 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.
As Table 40 shows, North Carolina's other urban areas are substantially less congested than Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is quite high, ranging from 75�200 percent. (The 'delay' in the travel time is the portion of the Congestion Index over 1.0.) Such a significant increase will be sharply felt by local commuters in these smaller cities. With TTIs of 1.09�1.10, cities like Greensboro, Wilmington, Gastonia, and Concord are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in much larger cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.
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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