Here’s some bad, but not surprising, news for Texans living in Austin, Dallas, and Houston: your traffic is terrible. For Austinites, the outlook is particularly grim. According to a study conducted by Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the Texas Department of Transportation, Austin’s slice of I-35 has the worst traffic out of a hundred roadways in the state. Again, this isn’t surprising news for anybody who’s found themselves stuck between an eighteen-wheeler and a beat-up pickup during I-35 rush hour.
That congestion, measured from U.S. 290 North to Highway 71, costs Texans $201.28 million a year. Further down the list is Dallas’s I-635 with $128.45 million in annual congestion cost for the area from I-35 East to U.S. 75. The list also included how long travel takes in rush hour compared to normal hours (Texas Congestion Index) and how much extra time needs to be factored for trips (Planning Time Index). Although Austin claimed the top spot on the overall list, the top rankings are mostly split between several DFW and Houston highways.
In a press release on the study, researchers attributed our traffic woes to a (literally) growing problem in these big cities: booming populations.
“Year after year we see one theme that continues to resonate,” said Marc Williams, TxDOT’s Interim Deputy Director. “Our growing communities and worsening traffic congestion in Texas are, in fact, very real, and they call for a variety of solutions.”
Just last year, Austin’s population grew by 2.9 percent and Dallas and Houston each grew by 1.6 percent. People love Texas and are moving here in droves, but our roads just don’t have room for them yet. All it takes is a good long look at the condominiums being built in downtown Austin for you to wonder where all those extra cars are going to go.
Fortunately, this study came out in time to inform Texans voting on Proposition 7 in the November 3 elections. The now passed proposition will put extra money in the State Highway Fund to handle some of the costs of alleviating Texas’s rising traffic issue.
Austin, Dallas, and Houston also make an appearance on Thrillist’s list of the worst highways in the US. The list, compiled using data from the Federal Highway Administration, ranks the highways according to what Thrillist is aptly calling the Total Horribleness Index. The index factors in how many hours the highways are congested everyday, how rough the roads are, and, sadly, the amount of deaths on the highways each day.
Thrillist includes a breakdown of their math, which is especially helpful since their rankings come out pretty different from TxDOT’s. For one, Austin is in seventh place on the list — after Houston and Dallas. Still, the fact that all three cities have made a national ranking reinforces TxDOT’s findings: Texas highways need some serious improvement to keep up with our population growth.
It’s flattering that everyone wants to be in Texas, but when that results in inexplicable traffic on a Sunday afternoon, it can make you feel like getting out of town.
traffic on I35 makes me want to move out of Austin
— cassandra (@casswasheree) November 4, 2015