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ATRI: 12% of Interstate Miles Cause Most Traffic Congestion

Congestion is a relatively “small” problem with massive consequences for the trucking industry, according to the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) Research Advisory Committee.

ATRI research showed that 89% of the trucking industry’s congestion costs are created by just 12% of interstate highway miles, reports Heavy Duty Trucking.

And it stands to reason, says ATRI, that improving that 12% of bottleneck roads could positively impact the flow of people and goods. Additionally, the agency’s research suggested that an array of small-scale, lower cost solutions could provide travel time benefits for both trucks and passenger vehicles.

Snarled traffic is estimated to have caused the trucking industry to consume an additional 6.87 billion gallons of fuel in 2016 – representing approximately 13% of the industry’s fuel consumption, while adding $15.74 billion to its fuel bill. From an environmental standpoint, congestion also resulted in 67.3 million metric tons of excess carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions being emitted into the atmosphere.

The resulting study, entitled “Fixing the 12%” examines the potential fuel consumption and emissions benefits.

 which could be derived from improvements to an interstate interchange in Atlanta, Georgia that costs commuters and the trucking industry millions of dollars each year due to congestion.

Looking specifically as an example at the intersection of Interstate 285 and Interstate 85 in northern DeKalb County, Georgia – consistently ranked as one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in the US – ATRI utilized its truck GPS database to identify average truck speeds by time of day through this intersection, with vehicle positions and speed data and found that average vehicle speeds during the weekday morning commute (7-10 a.m.) slowed to as little as 28 mph, while the evening commute (3 to 7 p.m.) dropped to a low of 14 mph.

The average speed during these weekday peak periods is 23 mph while the average during weekday non-peak periods is 47 mph, still below free-flow conditions. The overall average speed throughout the weekday at this interchange is 40 mph, while weekend speeds average 49 mph overall, with average hourly speeds as low as 37 mph. Taking that data, ARTI researchers then estimated the fuel consumption and emissions benefits of improving the interchange in terms of fuel consumption and emissions from existing traffic conditions and comparing them to an assumed free-flow condition.

The results showed that if improvements to the interchange were made to allow the free-flow of traffic, increasing average vehicle speeds to 55 mph, the change could save a projected 4.5 million gallons of fuel annually among the vehicles passing through the project area. This is equivalent to a fuel economy increase of 7% for gasoline vehicles and nearly 11% for diesel vehicles, the study noted.

According to ATRI these reductions in fuel consumption and emissions illustrate the potential ancillary benefits which could be achieved by making road improvements which eliminate or reduce congestion at this interchange as well as others throughout the nation.

The full study can be downloaded here.

The full HDT article can be found here.

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