Truckers used to joke that there were two seasons in the U.S. – winter and construction. No one is laughing now as congestion worsens along key interstates while the nations aging infrastructure is upgraded year-round. Spending on new projects resulting from the historic and bipartisan $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Bill signed in 2021 is now evident along most of our major freight corridors. Whether it’s highway widening from two lanes to four (see Figure 1) or upgrading and, in some cases, replacing bridges, the delays are growing.
For truckers, it’s frustrating, but it’s a bitter pill we all need to swallow – roadwork and bridge construction and delays now for a much smoother and quicker ride down the road. It’s a worthwhile trade-off.
The Top 10 Worst Traffic Corridors
To rank, the most congested highways, global telematics and consulting firm INRIX used anonymized GPS data from telematics devices in cars and trucks to rank the most congested highways. According to the 2022 Global Traffic Scorecard, delays on the busiest corridors increased in 2022 along with congestion metro-wide. I-95 through Stamford, Connecticut, took the number 1 and 3 spots where drivers on the 30-mile corridor on I-95 Southbound from Sherwood Island Connector to Indian Field Road lost an average of 34.5 minutes per day during the morning commute. Congestion on the return trip Northbound was still high, resulting in a loss of 30 minutes for commuters.
The second most congested corridor was on I-5 Southbound in Los Angeles, where drivers lost an average of 31.8 minutes daily during the 5:00 PM rush hour. Over a 240-workday year, this equates to sitting in traffic for 127 hours. Not surprisingly, I-93 Southbound through Downtown Boston cost commuters 99 hours lost annually, while Westbound on Brooklyn Queens Expressway New York City resulted in 91 hours of lost time.
Three of the five most congested cities in the world are in the U.S.
If you’ve traveled to London, it won’t be a surprise to see that city ranks number one in the world on the list of most congested cities at 156 hours (almost a week) of lost time commuting. What is surprising, though, is that three of the Top 5 most congested cities in the world are right here in the U.S. In 2022, Chicago (155 hours lost) was closely followed by Paris (138 hours) and Boston (134), and New York (117).
Of the 295 U.S. urban areas analyzed by INRIX, 179 are still below their pre-COVID normal commute time levels, while 116 have surpassed them. Of the top 50 ranked areas, just 12 have exceeded 2019 levels, indicating that smaller, less-congested cities have already “returned to normal” in terms of traffic.
The typical driver in the country lost 51 hours in congestion, up 15 hours from 2021’s 36 hours lost, costing the average driver $869 in lost time. Nationally, drivers spent 4.8 billion hours in congestion, still short of 2019’s 6 billion lost hours. The cost of traffic delays across the country increased from $53 billion in 2021 to $81 billion in 2022, a 53% increase. However, despite an approximate 17% jump in inflation since, the cost of nationwide congestion is still down $7 billion from 2019’s high of $88 billion.
After going from very little traffic and higher average road speed, trucks can expect traffic patterns to return to more typical in 2023. More and more companies are moving away from hybrid work policies (a mix of remote and office work) to having most workers commute to work five days per week.
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