Policy Study

Mobility Project – State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs – Maryland

How bad will traffic congestion be in 2030? How much construction and how many new lane miles will each state and major city need to add over the next 25 years to prevent severe congestion? And how much will it all cost? The Reason Foundation study Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America’s Cities: How Much and at What Cost? and its addendum, A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs, provide in-depth answers to these questions. An interactive map ranking the states by congestion and costs to reduce traffic is here and a map of the most congested cities is here.


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To significantly reduce today’s severe congestion and prepare for growth expected by 2030, Maryland needs almost 580 new lane-miles at a total cost of $2.3 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $30 per resident each year. Maryland ranks 33rd out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and 32nd in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 130 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

Maryland is home to the 14th most congested city in the United States, Baltimore (which shares this ‘honor’ with Portland, Sacramento, San Jose, and Riverside-San Bernardino), where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.37. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 37 percent longer than during off-peak times. Unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in this port city can expect to see a TTI of 1.75 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays equivalent to present-day Los Angeles.

Baltimore could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 403 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $1.8 billion in today’s dollars. This includes the costs of adding 3 percent of the new capacity by building elevated roadways and tunnels, which will be necessary in a densely settled location like Baltimore.

This investment would save an estimated 125 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Baltimore traffic, at a cost of just $0.58 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 $1.8 billion may sound like a large investment, it is actually only 7.2 percent of the amount that the Baltimore area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization already plans to spend in their long-range transportation plan. The Baltimore Regional Transportation Board (the region’s MPO) plans to spend approximately $25.5 billion during the next 25 years—$13.2 billion on highway improvements, $11.8 billion on mass transit, and $0.5 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. Transit spending comprises 46 percent of the budget, even though only 6.2 percent of Baltimore commuters now use mass transit.

As Table 26 shows, Maryland’s other urban areas are substantially less congested than Baltimore. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is still quite high, ranging from 100—225 percent. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) Such significant increases in travel delays will be sharply felt by local commuters. With TTIs of 1.08—1.10, cities like Westminster, Frederick, and St. Charles are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in the much larger cities of Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, respectively.

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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?

Additional Resources:
» Reason Foundation’s Mobility Project Main Page
» Reason Foundation’s Transportation Research and Commentary
» Reason Foundation’s Press Room

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