Local freeway congestion not getting worse, study finds

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An Indianapolis commuter spends an average of 41 hours in freeway delays during rush hour each year, according to a study by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

That’s the equivalent of a week at work, watching tail lights.

The 41 hours in the Urban Mobility Information Study, released this month and covering 2011, was unchanged from the year before. But it was an improvement from the 49 hours in commuter delays in 2006, when the economy was humming.

The study, which looked at 498 metro areas, said freeway congestion around the country is likely to worsen when the economy rebounds and more vehicles hit the road. 

Indianapolis, the nation’s 12th largest city, ranked No. 23 in delay time per commuter during peak travel periods.

The worst urban area for delays is Washington, D.C., at 67 hours a year.

A new component of the most recent study is the "Planning Time Index," or PTI, which measures how much extra time should be planned for high-priority trips that require on-time arrival.

In Indianapolis, according to the PTI, a traveler should allow 50 minutes for a high-priority commute that normally takes 20 minutes when traffic is light. Doing so would ensure on-time arrival 95 percent of the time.

That’s better than the 57 minutes in Columbus, Ohio; 62 minutes in Louisville; 64 minutes in Cincinnati; and 79 minutes in Chicago.

Such information is useful for planning just-in-time deliveries and time-critical commuter trips such as a ride to the airport to board a flight.

The study looked only at only limited-access roads, such as interstates.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has been rebuilding many of the city’s aging interstates as part of its Major Moves program, which was funded by the $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

The agency said it’s been limiting lane closures during construction to off-peak times to minimize delays and improve safety. It’s also been adding traveler information displays that can cause freeway motorists to jump off onto secondary streets during interstate logjams.

“While there are many factors that affect mobility, over the past several years, INDOT has been adding capacity to Indianapolis-area interstates,” said Will Wingfield, INDOT spokesman.

Congestion means more than frustration and inconvenience because the average cost of congestion for an Indianapolis peak-time auto commuter per year is $930, according to the study.

That cost was $1,416 in 2006, when traffic congestion was worse.




  • Funny stuff
    Mordant, you can work on building all those new projects when they design the Martian version of Indianapolis. I don't buy the results of this study. I just don't believe that the amount of congestion encountered by average commuters in Washington, N.Y., Boston, L.A., & S.F. is only 50% higher than that of Indy commuters.
  • Traffic? What traffic?
    Indianapolis has no traffic problems due to the following: 1. Most downtown workers are government workers and they have generous flextime policy. 2. The real unemployment rate is about 20% here. 3. Those who do work have jobs in retail or warehouses and work off hours. There is no economy here and most people can't afford gas, so of course there's no traffic.
  • More Highways Are Better
    Next up: 1. A new farther-out loop around Indianapolis 2. I-69 from its current terminus in Castleton to downtown; should have been built in the first place 3. I-70B, running parallel to I-70 from Greenfield to Plainfield 4. I-67 from Indianapolis to South Bend 5. Elevated US-31/Meridian from Carmel to downtown Indianapolis

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  1. So as I read this the one question that continues to come to me to ask is. Didn't Indiana only have a couple of exchanges for people to opt into which were very high because we really didn't want to expect the plan. So was this study done during that time and if so then I can understand these numbers. I also understand that we have now opened up for more options for hoosiers to choose from. Please correct if I'm wrong and if I'm not why was this not part of the story so that true overview could be taken away and not just parts of it to continue this negative tone against the ACA. I look forward to the clarity.

  2. It's really very simple. All forms of transportation are subsidized. All of them. Your tax money already goes toward every single form of transportation in the state. It is not a bad thing to put tax money toward mass transit. The state spends over 1,000,000,000 (yes billion) on roadway expansions and maintenance every single year. If you want to cry foul over anything cry foul over the overbuilding of highways which only serve people who can afford their own automobile.

  3. So instead of subsidizing a project with a market-driven scope, you suggest we subsidize a project that is way out of line with anything that can be economically sustainable just so we can have a better-looking skyline?

  4. Downtowner, if Cummins isn't getting expedited permitting and tax breaks to "do what they do", then I'd be happy with letting the market decide. But that isn't the case, is it?

  5. Patty, this commuter line provides a way for workers (willing to work lower wages) to get from Marion county to Hamilton county. These people are running your restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and retail stores. I don't see a lot of residents of Carmel working these jobs.