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Mobility Project - State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs - Texas

August 1, 2006

 
     
       
 


How bad will traffic congestion be in 2030? How much construction and how many new lane miles will each state and major city need to add over the next 25 years to prevent severe congestion? And how much will it all cost? The Reason Foundation study Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America's Cities: How Much and at What Cost? and its addendum, A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs, provide in-depth answers to these questions. An interactive map ranking the states by congestion and costs to reduce traffic is here and a map of the most congested cities is here.


 
 

Texas

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Texas is home to five of the 53 most congested cities in America. The Lone Star State is expected to add another 6.7 million people in its urbanized areas by 2030, and traffic congestion is a serious threat to its economic health. To reduce today's congestion and prepare for growth expected by 2030, Texas needs almost 13,000 new lane-miles at a total cost of $49 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of approximately $118 per resident each year. Texas ranks second out 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of most lane-miles needed and third in the total costs of those improvements.

If the state made these improvements, it would save over 532 million hours per year that are now wasted in traffic jams. In addition to these time savings, there would be substantial benefits that are not quantified in this study, including: lower fuel use, reduced accident rates and vehicle operating costs, lower shipping costs and truck travel time reductions, greater freight reliability, and a number of benefits associated with greater community accessibility, including an expanded labor pool for employers and new job choices for workers.

Texas has four cities that currently suffer from severe congestion and one from borderline severe congestion, which this study identifies as areas with Travel Time Indices (TTIs) of 1.18 or higher. (This means that driving times during peak traffic hours are 18 percent longer than during off-peak times.) These cities, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and El Paso, are addressed separately below.

As Table 50 suggests, the other cities in Texas with populations of over 50,000 are currently less congested than the largest five above, with TTIs in the 1.04�1.08 range. However, the relative increase in delay projected over the next 25 years for these cities is between 75�600 percent, with Texas City and McAllen experiencing the largest increases at 600 percent and 400 percent, respectively. (The 'delay' in the travel time is the portion of the TTI over 1.0.) Such dramatic increases in traffic delays will be sharply felt by local commuters.

With projected TTIs of 1.08�1.10, cities like Texarkana, Killeen, and Amarillo are facing future traffic delays similar to those currently experienced in the much larger cities of Dayton, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh, respectively. And Texas City and McAllen are looking at worse congestion than present-day St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Dallas-Fort Worth

Dallas-Fort Worth's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.36 to 1.73 by 2030. This means that travel times during peak traffic hours will be 73 percent longer than during off-peak times. Such congested conditions are seen today only in Los Angeles, the most congested city in the United States.

Dallas-Fort Worth could significantly reduce severe congestion and have room for the incoming population growth by adding 3,650 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $26 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $185 per resident each year. This investment would save 297 million hours each year that residents currently lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of $3.52 per delay-hour saved.

The $26 billion needed to reduce congestion is actually just 58 percent of the planned transportation spending under the Dallas-Fort Worth Metropolitan Organization (MPO) long-range plans. Those plans call for $45.1 billion over the next 25 years�$30.6 billion on highway improvements, $13.5 billion on mass transit, and $1.0 Billion on other projects. Just 1.8 percent of the regional work force now uses mass transit to commute. And yet, transit accounts for 30 percent of the area's planned transportation spending over the next 25 years. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system.

Houston

Houston's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.42 to 1.61 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic hours will be 61 percent longer than during off-peak times. Such congested conditions are seen today only in Los Angeles, the most congested city in the United States.

Houston could significantly reduce severe congestion and have room for the incoming population growth by adding 2,660 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $9.2 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $111 per resident each year. This investment would save 134 million hours each year that residents currently lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of $2.74 per delay-hour saved.

While $9.2 billion may sound like an exceedingly large investment, it is actually just 12 percent of the planned transportation spending under the Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) long-range plans. (H-GAC is the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO.) Those plans call for $77.3 billion over the next 25 years�$46.7 billion on highway improvements, $17.9 billion on mass transit, and $12.7 billion on other projects. While about 3.3 percent of Houston area commuters now use mass transit to commute, transit accounts for 23 percent of the area's planned spending over the next 25 years. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system.

San Antonio

San Antonio's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.22 to 1.45 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic hours will be 45 percent longer than during off-peak times. Such congested conditions are similar to those in present-day Atlanta.

San Antonio could significantly reduce severe congestion and have room for the imminent growth by adding nearly 2,330 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $5.6 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $137 per resident each year. This investment would save a 36 million hours each year that San Antonians now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of $6.30 per delay-hour saved.

While $5.6 billion may sound like an exceedingly large investment, it is actually just 54 percent of the planned transportation spending under the San Antonio-Bexar County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) long-range plans. Those plans call for $10.5 billion over the next 25 years�$6.5 billion on highway improvements and $4.0 billion on mass transit. About 2.9 percent of San Antonio area commuters now use mass transit to commute. Nonetheless, transit accounts for 38 percent of the area's planned spending over the next 25 years. While some of the planned highway improvement funding may be used for capacity expansion, the majority is often allocated to preserving, maintaining, and operating the highway system.

Austin

Austin's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.33 to 1.54 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic hours will be 54 percent longer than during off-peak times. Such congested conditions are similar to those in present-day San Francisco. Only Los Angeles and Chicago have worse traffic.

Austin could significantly reduce severe congestion by adding 1,168 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $2.5 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $91.80 per resident each year. This investment would save 35 million hours each year that residents now lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just $2.82 per delay-hour saved.

El Paso

El Paso's Travel Time Index (TTI) is expected to rise from 1.17 to 1.37 by 2030. This means that in 2030, travel times during peak traffic hours will be 37 percent longer than during off-peak times. Such congested conditions are a little worse than those in present-day Dallas-Fort Worth.

El Paso could significantly reduce severe congestion by adding 801 new lane-miles by 2030 at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, in today's dollars. That's a cost of $80.16 per resident each year. This investment would save 9.2 million hours each year that residents lose sitting in traffic, at a cost of just $6.21 for each hour saved.


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» Return to Index Page: Study, State-By-State Data, Maps
» Return to Interactive Map of Traffic U.S. Congestion Statistics and Construction Needs


This information is excerpted from A Detailed State-by-State Analysis of Future Congestion and Capacity Needs and Building Roads to Reduce Traffic Congestion in America's Cities: How Much and at What Cost?

Additional Resources:
» Reason Foundation's Mobility Project Main Page
» Reason Foundation's Transportation Research and Commentary
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