The Most Congested Highways in Texas: Congrats, Houston?

The Houston Chronicle recently highlighted the most congested highway corridors in Texas:

INRIX analysts looked at major metros across the globe to identify the biggest problem spots. In Texas, the top 15 worst sections all sit in Dallas, Houston or Austin, with fewer than expected in the Bayou City.

Unexpectedly, the I-35 corridor in Austin was not the worst stretch of road. US-59N in southwest Houston took home those dubious honors:

The worst overall is Houston’s US-59 northbound from Greenbriar to I-45. It came in at No. 21 in the list of the world’s worst corridors, and caused 53.4 hours in traffic delays in 2013.

Your humble scribe may have personally experienced at least 35.2 hours of the total 53.4 hours of traffic delays on US-59N in 2013. Or at least, if felt that way on some days.

Voice for Texas and TREPAC staff who live in and around Austin ridiculed the report, suggesting that there’s no way that anything in Houston could beat I-35 during rush hour. It was like the Dystopian Olympics around here for a while. “My city has it worse than your city!” Austin can take consolation (?) in the fact that I-35 did indeed take the #2 and #3 spots for the Worst Congested Highways in Texas.

No Laughing Matter

While we had fun with the story, fact is that traffic and congestion are serious issues for Texas.

The cost of bad roads, congested highways, aging infrastructure and inadequate transportation is enormous. Texas Good Roads estimates that bad roads cost Texans $6.5 billion each year from extra gas spent in traffic, extra repairs to vehicles, and just time lost sitting in traffic. It also costs our economy $10.8 billion each year. Just to cite one example, H-E-B has to charge an extra $0.15 per gallon of milk because of traffic on I-35.

The success of our economy here in Texas has meant that Texas is one of the top destinations for domestic migration (i.e., people from other states moving here). That’s wonderful, as new Texans bring their energy, their resources, and their knowledge to enrich our state as a whole. But one of the side effects — a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless — is traffic. And if we do not address transportation, it threatens the economic vitality and the quality of life for all of us.

This is why transportation is one of our top issues at Voice For Texas in 2014 and beyond. We will be talking more about transportation issues in the weeks and months ahead, and suggesting some ideas for improving transportation so that we might have a dialogue about what to do about our “good problem to have”.

But in the meantime, if you have personal horror stories about traffic, we’d like to hear it. Call it morbid curiosity, or simply the desire for some of the Austinites here to say, “Heh, you think that’s bad, well, let me tell you about the time that….”

-VFT

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