|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, Alabama needs almost 970 new lane-miles at a total cost of $2.5 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of approximately $48 per resident each year. Alabama ranks 28th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and 28th in the total costs of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save over 13 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.
Alabama has only one area currently suffering from severe congestion. The Birmingham area in the north central part of the state is currently the 53rd most congested region in the United States, with a Travel Time Index (TTI) of 1.17. This means that driving times during peak traffic are 17 percent longer than during off-peak times.
Unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in this part of Alabama can expect to see a TTI of 1.32 by 2030. For an idea of how severe that level of congestion would be, note that this projection is comparable to the traffic delays experienced today in places like Tampa-St. Petersburg, Boston, and Philadelphia.
As Table 6 suggests, the picture is not too bad for the other cities in Alabama with populations over 50,000. While their TTIs do not reach the 1.18 level that this study identifies as severe congestion, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is about 100 percent, which will be sharply felt by local commuters. (The —delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) With TTIs of 1.10, smaller cities like Mobile and Huntsville are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in much larger cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland. Alabama can significantly reduce congestion by adding about 970 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion in today’s dollars.
This investment would save an estimated 13 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in traffic, at a yearly cost of $7.52 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.
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?