Atlanta and Houston Top Trucking Industry’s Worst Traffic Bottleneck Rankings

January 26, 2017 by Clarissa Hawes

Giant traffic bottlenecks delay the transport of a host of consumer products and other goods and cost the trucking industry billions of dollars annually.

A report published Wednesday, “The Nation’s Top Truck Bottlenecks” by the American Transportation Research Institute, or ATRI, listed the top 100 most congested bottlenecks for truckers in the U.S.

It said one thorny stretch of highway near Atlanta called “Spaghetti Junction” is the worst.

The analysis should be used to identify what highway projects are worthy of funding, especially as the Trump Administration is expected to focus on long-term infrastructure spending, said Chris Spear, president of the American Trucking Associations, or ATA.

“Ensuring the safe and efficient movement of goods should be a national priority,” Spear said.

Trucking accounts for about 70 percent of domestic freight transportation, including a wide variety of goods and commodities such as food, gasoline and consumer products. That represented $726.4 billion – or 81.2 percent – of U.S. shipping revenue last year, according to the ATA.

ATRI’s research is finding that highway traffic congestion adds huge costs to freight transport. The research group said traffic has a $49.6 billion impact annually as a result of 728 million lost hours of productivity. That is the equivalent of 264,500 truck drivers sitting idle for an entire year, the trade group said.

Spaghetti Junction, which is the intersection of I-285 and I-85 North in Atlanta topped the list for the second straight year. Six other interchanges in Atlanta also made the worst 100 list.

The four other worst bottlenecks included:

  • Fort Lee, N.J – I-95 and State Route 4
  • Chicago, Ill. – I-290 at I-90/I-94
  • Louisville, Ky. – I-65 at I-64/I-71
  • Cincinnati, Ohio – I-71 at I-75

Georgia trucking officials are resigned to their state faring poorly on the annual list.

“Honestly, the bottlenecks are as bad as they have been portrayed on the list,” said Ed Crowell, president of the Georgia Motor Trucking Association. “It’s not fun to be at the top of that list.”

U.S. Traffic Bottlenecks graph

Map of the worst U.S. traffic bottlenecks. (Source: ATRI)

The congestion is a consequence of rapid growth in the state and a lack of funding for transportation projects, Cowell told Trucks.com.

“It’s not a big surprise to us,” he said.

Georgia has money to address some of the traffic issues along its interstates, but Crowell doesn’t expect speedy changes.

U.S. Senate Democrats announced a “robust plan” to fund transportation and other infrastructure projects on Tuesday, which may help states struggling with traffic congestion.

It’s unclear how the Democrats proposal will mesh with the Trump Administration’ s plans for infrastructure spending, but there seems to be bipartisan support for addressing the problem.

“The commitment to allocate funding for roads, bridges, transit, ports, waterways and broadband is an important first step in rebuilding our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” said Marcia Hale, president of Building America’s Future.

The top 10 states with the most bottlenecks in order are: Texas (14), Washington (9), California (7), Connecticut (7), Georgia (7), New York (5) and then Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Ohio and Tennessee all with four.

Texas had 10 in just Houston.

The traffic problems in Houston result from its large industrial footprint, said Dan Murray, vice president of ATRI.

It has a significant number of warehouses and distribution centers spread out over 50 miles. During rush hour, this high amount of truck and commuter traffic “creates a perfect storm,” Murray said.

To come up with its findings, ATRI collects GPS data from trucks and uses it “to quantify the impact of traffic congestion on truck-borne freight at 250 locations,” according to the study.

One trucker who drives to California three times a month said the traffic bottlenecks affect just about every part of her trucking operation.

Truckers’ hours-of-service, which limits drive time to 14-hours a day, contributes to the bottlenecks, said Ingrid Brown, of Mountain City, Tenn., owner of the Rollin’ B trucking firm.

“Most truckers running electronic logs that track drive time don’t have the luxury to wait until rush hour ends or for a major crash to be cleared so they are forced to drive through the traffic congestion,” Brown told Trucks.com.

Truckers often can’t escape diving into rush hour traffic, which makes the situation worse, because they have to meet contracted deadlines to deliver their cargo, Murray said.

ATRI provides motor carriers and commercial drivers with the best and worst times to be on the roadways highlighted on its list during a 24-hour period, said Rebecca Brewster, president and chief operating officer of the research group.

Related: Avoid Tolls – Raise Fuel Taxes to Fund Roads and Relieve Traffic

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