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ATRI’s Top 100 bottlenecks: Congestion up 6% from last year

Traffic congestion is only getting worse on US highways, costing everyone in the supply chain. (Photo/Shutterstock)

Since 2002, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) has collected and processed truck GPS data in support of the Federal Highway Administration’s Freight Performance Measures (FPM) initiative. ATRI research identified trucking industry costs of $63.4 billion as a result of congestion on the nation’s highways. That cost generates from 996 million lost hours of industry productivity, the equivalent of 362,000 truck drivers sitting still for an entire year.

The metrics that generate from ATRI’s ongoing truck bottleneck analysis quantify the impact of traffic congestion on truck-borne freight at 300 specific locations. The locations were assessed using the GPS data processing system.

The bottleneck analysis incorporates and synthesizes several unique components, including a massive database of truck GPS data at freight-significant locations throughout the US, and an algorithm that quantifies the impact of congestion on truck-based freight. In addition, the annual reports provide a chronological repository of mobility profiles, whereby congestion changes can be assessed over time.

One of the things the report looks at is year-over-year speed. Often when there are changes, it reflects an infrastructure change. For instance, the bridge in Louisville, KY was #4 on the list last year is now #10. In fact, they’ve seen an increase in speeds of up to 19% in the area. That’s a small point of regional good news.

The bad news is that overall, truck speeds are getting worse by nearly 6% nationwide just since last year. Shippers and carriers don’t necessarily work these into their bottom line. With the emergence of the e-commerce supply chain, these infrastructure issues are only growing. Sometimes drivers still get paid, and it only costs the suppliers and carriers.

However, ATRI estimates the infrastructural problems of congestion cost truckers nearly 10% of their annual wages, especially when considering the problems in looking for parking. With an average pay of .50-.52 per mile it would be expected drivers would lose a certain amount of annual income, especially those driving in urban areas. With the growth of e-commerce these bottlenecks are going to be equally painful up and down the supply chain.

Texas leads the way with 11 of the top 100 bottlenecks — seven of those are in Houston. Georgia is a leading offender with 7 of the top 100 — all of them in Atlanta. Tennessee is also a problematic state with 9 of the top 100, ranging from Chattanooga to Nashville to Knoxville to Memphis. Washington state and California are also bad areas in the west.

The Top 5 most improved bottlenecks over last year:

Overall Rank #71 Cranston, RI: I-95 at RT 37

Overall Rank #10 Louisville, KY: I-65 at I-64/I-71

Overall Rank #47 Cranston, RI: I-95 at RT 10

Overall Rank #86 Washington, DC: I-95 at I-495 (North)

Overall Rank #14 Denver, CO: I-70 Central Project

Cranston, RI certainly seems to have received the message. The small state has two locations which have improved dramatically at 21% and 18% respectively. Louisville’s new bridge has certainly seen another dramatic improvement, but they still have work to do as they still managed to crack the Top 10 worst overall bottleneck offenders. Washington, DC and Denver saw year-over-year improvements at 12% and 11% respectively.

The Top 5 biggest bottleneck declines over last year:

Overall Rank #12 Port Huron, MI: I-94 at I-69

Overall Rank #22 Memphis, TN: I-40 at I-240 (East)

Overall Rank #94 Charlotte, NC: I-77 near Lake Norman

Overall Rank #53 Seattle, WA: I-5 at I-90

Overall Rank #83 Seattle, WA: I-90 at I-405

Port Huron, MI ranking now as high as #12 in the top 100 worst bottleneck locations, easily wins the prize of biggest decline in efficiency, falling nearly 20% in a single year. Memphis, TN ranking now #22 comes in second for biggest annual decline at 14%. Charlotte, NC’s I-77 area near Lake Normal declined nearly 9%, and Seattle, WA now has two bottleneck locations making the Top 5 biggest annual declines at around 8% each.

Measuring the performance of freight movement across our nation’s highways is critical to understanding where and at what level investment should be made. The information provided through this effort can empower decision-making in both the private and public sectors by helping stakeholders better understand the severity of congestion and mobility constraints on the U.S. highway transportation system. This is of particular importance as the nation weighs the needs and resources available for transportation funding.

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