Where are the worst highway freight bottlenecks in the U.S.?

May 28, 2021

The U.S. economy lost over $42 billion in 2019 as trucks packed with goods and products got snarled in traffic, a cost borne throughout the entire economy.

Freight shipments also suffered almost 660 million hours of delay on the nation’s roadways, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) study, “Throttled: The Economic Costs of Freight Bottlenecks.” 

“Our examination brings into sharp focus the continued costs of congestion on America’s highway network,” said ARTBA Chief Economist Alison Premo Black. “Legislation to address freight mobility through increased federal transportation investment would help alleviate these bottlenecks, increase business productivity and power the economy for the next generation.”

Data released in late 2020 by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and analyzed by the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) shows:

  • Congestion costs on the Interstate Highway System grew 25% over the last two years - from $12 billion in 2017 to over $15 billion in 2019.
  • Major chokepoints include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Austin, Houston, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.
  • Highway freight shipments collectively experienced over 27 million days of delay in 2019, the equivalent of nearly 75,000 years, with over one third of the lost time occurring on the Interstates

Nearly 73% of the value of domestic freight is shipped via truck and the value of truck shipments is expected to more than double by 2045, according to ARTBA’s analysis of FHWA’s data. The agency calculates the delay per mile to quantify the cost of bottlenecks across major corridors and compare performance from year to year.1

The data reinforce that improving freight mobility should be a priority for any federal infrastructure measure or surface transportation reauthorization bill.

Top 10 major highway bottlenecks, ranked by hours of delay per mile, 2019:

10. I-278 in New York, NY
I-95/I-678 to Grand Central Pkwy. and SR-27 Prospect Expy. to SR-29 Queens Blvd.
86,745 hours of delay
$164,100,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

9. I-69/US-59 in Houston, TX
Buffalo Speedway to I-45
89,185 hours of delay
$57,800,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

8. I-290 in Chicago, IL
I-90/I-94 to I-290
94,778 hours of delay
$59,700,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

7. I-405 in Los Angeles, CA
At SR-73 and I-105 to SR-42 Manchester Blvd.
95,686 hours of delay
$147,800,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

6. I-678 in New York, NY
I-495 to Belt Parkway and I-295/I-95 to south end BronxWhitestone Bridge
100,237 hours of delay
$40,000,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

5. I-610 in Houston, TX
I-69 to I-10
104,009 hours of delay
$60,800,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

4. I-35 in Austin, TX
Airport Blvd to Stassney Ln
111,359 hours of delay
$109,900,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

3. I-605 in Los Angeles
I-5 to SR-60
139,777 hours of delay
$62,500,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

2. I-90/I-94 in Chicago IL
I-94N to I-55
140,942 hours of delay
$86,900,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

1. I-95/I-295 in New York, NY
I-278/I-678 to NJ side of GW Bridge/SR-4
263,116 hours of delay
$76,000,000 total cost of congestion on the corridor

See the complete ranking of 25 bottlnecks here. 

USA
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