Policy Study

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

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, Michigan needs just over 3,660 new lane-miles at a total cost of $27 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $151 per resident each year. Michigan ranks 10th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and sixth in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 123 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

Michigan is home to the 12th most congested city in the United States, Detroit (sharing this ‘honor’ with Seattle-Tacoma), where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.38. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 38 percent longer than during off-peak times. And unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in Motown can expect to see a TTI of 1.50 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays worse than any other cities today except Washington, DC, San Francisco, Chicago and Los Angeles.

Detroit could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 2,300 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $24.1 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 Detroit.

This investment would save an estimated 106 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Motown traffic, at a cost of $9.05 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 $24.1 billion may sound like an exceedingly large investment, it is actually only 59 percent of the amount that the Detroit area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) already plans to spend in their long-range transportation plan. The Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) plans to spend approximately $41 billion during the next 25 years—$31.5 billion on highway improvements, $9.3 billion on mass transit, and $0.2 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. The transit portion of the budget is about 23%—about 1.8 percent of Motown commuters now use mass transit.

As Table 28 shows, Michigan’s other urban areas are substantially less congested than Detroit. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is actually higher than that for Detroit. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) In Motown, the expected relative increase in traffic delay from 2003 to 2030 is 32 percent. However, all other smaller urban areas in Illinois listed in Table 28 can expect an increase in delay of 75—200 percent, which will be sharply felt by local commuters. With projected TTIs of 1.08—1.10, cities like Battle Creek, Saginaw, and Kalamazoo are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in the much larger cities of Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, respectively. And with a forecasted TTI of 1.28, Grand Rapids will experience traffic congestion worse than St. Louis or Cincinnati.

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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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