Policy Study

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

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, Georgia needs just over 3,200 new lane-miles at a total cost of $14.3 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $104 per resident each year. Georgia ranks 11th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and tenth in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 278 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

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.

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» Return to Index Page: Study, State-By-State Data, Maps
» Return to Interactive Map of Traffic U.S. Congestion Statistics and Construction Needs

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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