Policy Study

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

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, Minnesota needs just over 2,530 new lane-miles at a total cost of $7.7 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $94 per resident each year. Minnesota ranks 13th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and 14th in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 155 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.

Minnesota is home to the 21st most congested city in the United States, Minneapolis-St. Paul (which shares this ‘honor’ with Boston), where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.34. This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 34 percent longer than during off-peak times. Unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in the Twin Cities can expect to see a TTI of 1.76 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays worse than present-day Los Angeles.

Minneapolis-St. Paul could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 2,400 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $7.6 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 Minneapolis-St. Paul.

This investment would save an estimated 153 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in Twin City traffic, at a cost of just $1.97per 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 $7.6 billion may sound like an exceptionally large investment, it is actually 86 percent of the amount that the Minneapolis-St. Paul area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) already plans to spend in their long-range transportation plan. The Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities Area (the region’s MPO) plans to spend approximately $8.8 billion during the next 25 years—$5.6 billion on highway improvements, $2.6 billion on mass transit, and $0.7 billion on other projects. Approximately 4.5 percent of Twin City commuters now use mass transit, while transit spending accounts for about 30 percent of the budget.

As Table 29 shows, Minnesota’s other urban areas are substantially less congested than Minneapolis-St. Paul. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is still quite high. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) In the Twin Cities, the expected increase in traffic delay from 2003 to 2030 is 124 percent, while all other smaller urban area in Minnesota listed in Table 29 can expect an increase in delay of more than 125 percent, which will be sharply felt by local commuters. With TTIs of 1.09, cities like Duluth, Rochester, and St. Cloud are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in much larger cities like Akron, Richmond-Petersburg, and Cleveland.

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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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