|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, New York needs just over 4,500 new lane-miles at a total cost of $45 billion, in today’s dollars. That’s a cost of $79 per resident each year. New York ranks fifth out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and fourth in the total cost of those improvements. If the state made these improvements, it would save 1,276 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams.
New York is home to the tenth most congested city in the United States, New York City-Newark (which shares this ‘honor’ with Las Vegas), where the Travel Time Index (TTI) is 1.39. This means that driving times during peak traffic are 39 percent longer than during off-peak times. Only nine cities in the United States have worse traffic, and unless major steps are taken to relieve congestion, drivers in the Big Apple can expect to see a TTI of 1.74 by 2030, meaning they will experience travel delays similar to those in present-day Los Angeles.
New York City-Newark could significantly reduce congestion by adding about 2,400 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $38.5 billion in today’s dollars. This includes the costs of adding 15 percent of the new capacity by building elevated roadways and tunnels, which will be necessary in a densely settled location like NYC.
This investment would save an estimated 1,248 million hours per year that are now lost sitting in NYC traffic, at a cost of just $1.24 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 $38.5 billion may sound like an unattainably large investment, it is actually only 12 percent of the amount that the New York City area’s Metropolitan Planning Organization already plans to spend in their long-range transporation plan. The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (the region’s MPO) plans to spend approximately $327.8 billion during the next 25 years—$78.7 billion on highway improvements and $249.0 billion on mass transit. 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. Transit spending is 76 percent of the budget, while about 24.9 percent of Big Apple commuters now use mass transit.
As Table 39 shows, New York’s other urban areas are substantially less congested than the City. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is in the same range or higher than for NYC. (The ‘delay’ in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) In the Big Apple, the expected relative increase in traffic delay from 2003 to 2030 is 90 percent. However, all other smaller urban area in New York listed in Table 39 can expect an increase in delay ranging from 75—175 percent, with most 100 percent or greater. Such dramatic increases in traffic will be sharply felt by local commuters. With projected TTIs of 1.08—1.10, cities like Glens Falls, Utica, and Poughkeepsie-Newburgh are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in the much larger cities of Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, respectively. And Buffalo and Albany are looking at traffic woes equal to or greater than present-day St. Louis.
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?