Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 27

Transportation Tuesday: The most congested roads in Texas aren't in San Antonio

We often are asked about congestion levels in San Antonio, and we have some actual data to back up what we say on the topic. In fact, the annual list of most congested roadways compiled by Texas A&M University's Texas Transportation Institute has recently been released and can be seen online. It's a great place to start.

What does it mean for San Antonio? Well, a couple of things.

We've got it REALLY good here
Yes, there are some sticky spots around San Antonio. We're still doing pretty darned good, though. Our average commute times are hovering right around the 25-minute mark, putting us right up there with the traffic woes of Hartford, Connecticut, and of Columbus, Ohio.
The fact is we're nowhere near the worst traffic in the United States, despite being the seventh-largest city in the country - and the largest city without some form of managed lanes on our highway system. The plain truth is that, for a city as big as we are, we've got things pretty darned good.
This doesn't mean things aren't devoid of fun when we have some rain or when a crash occurs - that always gums things up. This means under normal conditions our commute flows pretty darned well.
Statewide, by the way, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth own more than three-fourths of the congested corridors on the list.

Our worst corridor is ... US 281
Photo credit: San Antonio Express-News
The most congested corridor in San Antonio is, officially, US 281 between Lp 1604 and Stone Oak Parkway. It's actually crept into the state-wide top-30, something no segment of roadway in San Antonio has done in more than five years. Sitting at No. 26 overall, those commuting this corridor are seeing peak travel times at 165 percent off-peak hours, leading to about 320,156 total hours of delay each year, per mile.
The good news: we've got a plan for that. We're finalizing plans to expand US 281 with overpasses and continuous frontage roads, and expect to start construction early 2017. We're doing our best to make sure construction delays are minimal, but by 2020 you should see this corridor fall rapidly off our congested corridors list.
Other areas of note across the region are I-35 between Loop 1604 and downtown (three separate segments are on the Top 100 list, ranking at 47, 53 and 66) and I-410 between US 281 and Culebra Road (again, multiple segments are on the list, ranking 72 and 75 overall). Again, we've got current or future projects moving for each of these areas to help.
All told, the San Antonio area owns eight roadway segments on the list - and already have a plan for each area.

We still have room to improve
While things are still pretty darned good, congestion is a growing headache for most of us. Our population is growing at a rate that is far greater than the capacity of our existing infrastructure - we're adding something like 50 cars to our local roads every single day. Seriously.
We're trying to get ahead of this. The Texas Transportation Commission just approved Texas’ largest transportation plan in history, with $70 billion dedicated to addressing congestion, connectivity, preservation and improving safety for drivers over the next 10 years. 
We've also got the Texas Clear Lanes initiative, led by Texas Transportation Commissioner J. Bruce Bugg, Jr. - a local from right here in San Antonio. Not only is that finding some extra funding to deal with the congestion we're seeing, it's also working with local partners to identify where and how to spend the money wisely.

The TTI study only looks at TxDOT maintained facilities, which means city and county roads are not measured in the study. This is for a number of reasons, but mostly because the traffic volume on state-owned roads is typically much higher than what you'll see on city or county roads. It really shouldn't impact the outcome of the study much, but it's worth mentioning.