New Study No Surprise; Traffic on North Freeway A Mess

If you're (already) stuck in traffic on the North Freeway between the 610 North Loop and the Beltway, it will come as little surprise to learn that stretch of I-45 is "the" most congested road in Texas. That's according to a new study from the Texas Department of Transportation, which looked at how much time and money drivers waste when they get bogged down in traffic. As David Pitman reports, this latest survey is designed to help prioritize which roads need the most help.

Congestion in Harris County carries an enormous price tag. 

The Texas Transportation Institute found that in 2008, drivers stuck on three dozen of the county's most congested roads burned up almost 700 million dollars in wasted time and fuel.

Tim Lomax is a research engineer with the institute, which helped the Texas Department of Transportation put together the latest report on traffic. 

"Previous studies have been focused on the region as a whole.  This one actually drills down into the data and identifies the specific pieces of road that are causing that regional problem."

And those specific pieces of road are?

"You've got Interstate 45, both the North Freeway and the Gulf Freeway.  You got US 59, the Southwest Freeway.  You got 290, out on the northwest side."

Lomax says the point of this study isn't just to say that traffic in Houston is a nightmare.  It's to focus on what should be done about it.

"The idea is you get a list of the worst-congested segments of road, figure out which ones you already got plans on.  And where you need plans or you need more funding, this allows you to communicate to the public, 'here's where our priorities are.'"

Lomax says there's no "one" solution that will bring traffic relief.  Instead, he says it'll probably be some combination of freeway improvements, with work on alternate routes, better public transit, and the ability of employers to implement more flexible work hours.
 

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David Pitman

Local Host, Morning Edition

The one question David hears most often isn't "What is it like to work for an NPR member station?" or "Have you ever met Terry Gross?" (he has)...