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A Top Five Ranking We Don’t Want

I often post best of rankings for Hampton Roads and Williamsburg VA so that out of state folks can see how we fare when compared to other regions in the US.

This is one that one that we aren’t proud of but needs to be addressed. The eastbound span of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was ranked  fifth in the most unreliable traffic jams, right up there with New York and Atlanta  in an analysis by the Texas Transportation Institute.

That means figuring out long it will take to get across is anyone’s guess.

The study also shows that trying to figure out travel time is more of a problem around bridges tunnels and tolls. That’s because there are few alternate routes and a small crash can have a huge impact on traffic flow.

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The report says it takes rush-hour commuters more than five times longer than off-peak drivers to clear the tunnel.

The 2011 Congested Corridors Report is the first nationwide effort to identify reliability problems at specific stretches of highway responsible for significant traffic congestion at different times and different days.

The report describes congestion problems in 328 seriously congested corridors over a variety of times — all day, morning and evening peaks, midday, and weekends. Much of our national congestion problem exists in a relatively small amount of our freeway system.

Not only were these roads found to have more stop-and-go traffic than others, they were also much less predictable — “so, not only does it take longer, commuters and truckers have a difficult time knowing how much longer it will take each time they make the same trip” said co-author David Schrank.

Among the report’s key findings:

    • The 328 corridors, while accounting for only 6 percent of the nation’s total freeway lane-miles and 10 percent of the traffic, account for 36 percent of the
  • country’s urban freeway congestion;
  • The 328 corridors account for 8 percent of the national truck traffic and 33 percent of urban freeway truck delay;
  • Travel time reliability is more of a problem around bridges, tunnels and toll facilities, both because there are few alternate routes available in such circumstances and because a small incident can have a huge effect on corridor travel times;
  • When travel time variability increases, your trip becomes less predictable. Every occurrence of an unpredicted travel disruption creates slower speeds than normal and contributes to an increase in our reliability measures.

As the first national look at travel time reliability, researchers believe that the report can be useful in determining where transportation system improvements will have the greatest impact.

The best approach is to consider all the congestion solutions:

  • Traditional road building and new or expanded transit facilities;
  • Traffic management strategies such as aggressive crash removal;
  • Demand management strategies like improving commuter information and employer-based ideas such as telecommuting and flexible work hours; and
  • Denser development patterns with a mix of jobs, shops and homes so people can walk, bike or take transit to more and closer, destinations.

The researchers stress that there is no single best way to fix the problem. The best solutions, they say, will come from efforts that have meaningful involvement from everyone concerned — agencies, businesses and travelers.

“If cities and states make the right investments in our most congested highway corridors, the return on those investments will be substantial,” says study author Tim Lomax. “Not only will we see more reliable trips for travelers and trucks, but we can also expect to see greater productivity and more jobs.”

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