Policy Study

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

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, Pennsylvania needs just over 4,450 new lane-miles at a total cost of $26 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $99 per resident each year. Pennsylvania ranks sixth out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and seventh in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 247 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

Pennsylvania is home to the 25th most congested city in the United States, Philadelphia, where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.32. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 32 percent longer than during off-peak times.

Unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in the City of Brotherly Love can expect to see a TTI of 1.61 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays worse than any present-day city in the United States with the exception of Los Angeles, which has a TTI of 1.75.

Philadelphia could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 1,900 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $19.6 billion in today’s dollars. This includes the costs of adding 5 percent of the new capacity by building elevated roadways and tunnels, which will be necessary in a densely settled location like Philadelphia.

This investment would save an estimated 209 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Philadelphia traffic, at a cost of $3.75 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 $19.6 billion may sound like an unattainably large investment, it is actually only 34 percent of the amount that the Philadelphia area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) already plans to spend in their long-range transportation plan. The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (the region’s MPO) plans to spend approximately $57.4 billion during the next 25 years—$21.9 billion on highway improvements, $22.8 billion on mass transit, and $12.7 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. About 40 percent of the spending will be for transit, while approximately 9.7 percent of Philly commuters now use mass transit.

As Table 45 shows, Pennsylvania’s other urban areas are substantially less congested than Philadelphia. Even though population growth is slower, traffic is predicted to increase. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for most of these cities is actually higher than that for Philadelphia. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) In Philadelphia, the expected relative increase in traffic delay from 2003 to 2030 is 91 percent. However, most of the other cities listed in Table 45 can expect an increase in delay of 100 percent or more, which will be sharply felt by local commuters. With TTIs of 1.10, cities like Erie and York are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in much larger cities like Buffalo, Pittsburgh, and Cleveland.

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» 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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