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Austin, Dallas, and Houston Have Some of Worst Highways in Texas (and the U.S.)

Texas’s growing population makes traffic a bit more unbearable each year.

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Flickr // Via Creative Commons

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.

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  • DiDi9

    35 in Tarrant county is a nightmare too.

  • Asher B. Garber

    So glad the State decided to build that Toll Road owned by Spain. Thanks, Rick!

    • Asher B. Garber

      Austin’s newest motto:

      Welcome to Austin. You will never move.

    • Jed

      i’ve changed my mind on this. if it leads austin to grow east instead of west (more realistically: in addition to), that may not be a bad thing.

      the land over there is still more affordable …

      • Asher B. Garber

        The largest problem of the toll road is the toll. First of all, it stops folks who can’t afford the toll to use the road. This includes the trucks that are all over I-35 who consider the rates too high. Second, we get double tolled because our Spanish overlords really never intended to fill the toll clerk boxes and instead planned all along to mail statements that include a mailing fee. That was a boondoggle from the start.

        • Jed

          heard on the tollbooths. they did the same thing on all the toll roads north of austin. huge waste of space, money. just empty concrete expanses in the air, each the size of an airplane runway.

          (at least they mail the bill, though. when i visit houston i just get a ticket straightoff cause i don’t have ezpass.)

          i agree on affordability, too. not the way i think we should build roads. but there is a road there now, and with it will come development.

  • vippy

    I don’t see a solution to this. Businesses could stagger their business hours so not all have to come in first thing in the morning clogging up the highways. I miss the subways in Germany. But we are too involved in wars to do anything about any problem here.

  • Angelo_Frank

    Can I sue for an anxiety attack in an I-35 traffic jam in Austin where everything just stopped completely?