Policy Study

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

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, Oregon needs just over 1,000 new lane-miles at a total cost of $3.2 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of approximately $43 per resident each year. Oregon ranks 26th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and 23rd in the total costs of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save over 106 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

Oregon has one city that currently suffers from severe congestion, which this study identifies as those areas with Travel Time Indices (TTIs) of 1.18 or higher. The Portland area in the northwestern part of Oregon is tied with four other cities (Baltimore, Sacramento, San Jose, and Riverside-San Bernardino) as the 14th most congested region in the United States, with a Travel Time Index (TTI) of 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 Portland can expect to see a TTI of 1.75 by 2030. For an idea of how severe that level of congestion would be, note that this projection is worse than the traffic delays experienced today in places like Atlanta, Chicago, and San Francisco. Indeed, it would be equivalent to the traffic congestion in present-day Los Angeles.

As Table 44 suggests, the picture is better for Eugene and Salem, which are projected to see TTIs of 1.22 and 1.23, respectively, by 2030, which reflect traffic delays similar to those experienced currently in the much larger cities of St. Louis and Cincinnati. But Oregon can significantly reduce these congestion problems by adding about 1,000 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $3.2 billion in today’s dollars.

This investment would save an estimated 106 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in traffic, at a yearly cost of $1.20 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.

The other cities in Oregon with populations above 50,000 (Medford, Bend, and Corvallis) are currently much less congested than those named above. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is almost as high, at 100 percent or more. Such a significant increase will be sharply felt by local commuters. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.)

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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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