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PHOTO: Interstate 35 tops the 2015 list of the 100 most congested roadways in Texas compiled by the Texas A&M University Texas Transportation Institute. PHOTO by SHELBY KNOWLES/THE TEXAS TRIBUNE

by MILES HUTSON

AUSTIN — Austin drivers who complain about Interstate 35 have been validated.

A new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute named the stretch of I-35 between U.S. 290 N and Texas 71 as the most congested roadway in Texas.

The annual report of the top 100 congested roadways in the state — commissioned by the Texas Department of Transportation — called a stretch of Houston’s I-610 the second-most congested roadway (it was No. 1 last year and I-35 in Austin was No. 2). Two separate sections of U.S. 59 in Houston and a portion of I-35 E in Dallas round out this year’s top five.

“The state’s worsening traffic gridlock is driven largely by a rapid growth in population without a corresponding growth in roadway space,” the institute said in a news release.

The rankings, released late last month, are based on the amount of delay caused by traffic on each road. Institute researcher Tim Lomax said 29 new roads were added to the list this year, but he said “the worst congested roads are probably going to stay the worst congested roads.” Nearly all of the top 20 congested roads made the top of the list last year, but a few moved around in the rankings.

Lomax said the institute used information from traffic data company Inrix, which collects speed information through partnerships with trucking companies, a traffic-monitoring phone application and tracking devices put into some vehicles by manufacturers. The institute combines that speed information with TxDOT maps to find the most congested areas.

The Houston area has the most roadways on the list — 38 — at an estimated cost of $2.87 billion. The Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is the second most congested with 34 roadways on the list but a higher cost of $2.94 billion. Austin has 11 roadways on the list at a cost of $975 million, San Antonio has 14 at $800 million, and El Paso has three at $240 million.

Lomax said the average cost of $17.67 per commuter hour factors in gas cost, toll roads, number of people affected and time value. He said time value is related to how quickly drivers need to get to their destinations.

Lomax said there are plans to address congestion in many of the listed roadways, but he said in general, Texas needs to add more capacity as the state increases in population.

“That could be both road and transit,” Lomax said. “We definitely need to operate the system as efficiently as we can, so timing the traffic signals [and] getting those stalled vehicles or crashes out of the way as quickly as possible [is] really important.”

Texas voters on Nov. 3 overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment to boost funding for road projects. Under Proposition 7, the state will dedicate some taxes collected on car sales for the State Highway Fund, which is used to maintain and construct public roadways and bridges and decrease transportation-related bond debt.

MILES HUTSON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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4 thoughts on “I-35 in Austin named most congested roadway in Texas

  1. If commuters followed the “left lane for passing only” rule and truckers also stayed out of the left lane (or if police officers actually enforced those rules!), the I-35 experience wouldn’t be so frustrating.

  2. Nick, I’m skeptical that you find people going less than the speed limit in the left lane on I-35 anywhere between SA and Austin. If they are then everyone is. What I infer from your complaint is that you want to go 80 when the prevailing speed is 75. The frustration would be better reduced if everyone were going the same speed. The problem today is that there are just not enough lanes to accommodate both hot rodders and grannies.

  3. I don’t see how it would be possible for everyone to go the same speed. There are definitely people in the left lane, who are not passing. I am not sure they are the problem, for the reason you mention.

    The problem I see, is there will be trucks and slow traffic in the right lane, and a semi will come along, at about 1-2 mph faster than the traffic in front of it, and then move over to the center lane, maintaining its current speed, and spend an eternity trying to pass the traffic on the right. This leaves two lanes traveling at well below the limit, and a bunch of people in the left lane, trying to get around them.

    That is, until the next semi, going 2 mph faster than the last, moves over to the left lane.

    At that point, and it happens plenty, the left lane is traveling below the speed limit, traffic backs up, and a mile back, Nick is complaining about people who don’t know what the left lane is for.

    At least, that has been my experience, driving 25,000 miles of IH35 per year, for 9 years.

  4. Everyone will go the same speed when we finally have driverless cars and I’m 100% ready for that. I do a lot of interstate driving and sure have better things to do than watch out for that idiot coming out of nowhere doing 90. For now I’d be content with everyone using cruise control whenever they can. Please decide what speed you’d like to go and keep it there as much as possible. Don’t speed up, get in my blind spot and just camp there. Don’t pass me, get in front of me and then start texting and slow down. Basically just get away from me. I like to go 4 over but I’ll settle for 1 over if it means I can have a nice buffer in a pack that’s going 1 over.

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