TRIP Report: Alabama’s 40 Worst Highway & Transit Chokepoints Identified

Chokepoints Lengthen Commutes, Stifle Economic Development And Reduce Quality Of Life Throughout The State —

The I-10 Wallace Tunnels in Mobile top the list of Alabama’s worst transportation chokepoints, along with multiple sections of I-65, I-20 and I-85.  This is according to a new report released today by TRIP, a Washington, DC based national transportation research organization.

TRIP’s report, “Alabama’s Transportation Chokepoints: The Top 40 Chokepoints and Remedies for Relief,” ranks the state’s urban interchanges, highway segments, transit routes, and sections of rural highways that provide inadequate mobility. These transportation chokepoints impede local, regional or interstate travel, diminish the quality of life of residents and visitors, reduce economic competitiveness, and stifle economic growth and recovery by hampering commuting, commerce and other travel. In addition to identifying the chokepoints, the report also offers potential improvements for each segment that would ease the burden on travelers and allow for improved mobility.

According to the TRIP report, the worst transportation chokepoint in Alabama is the I-10 Wallace Tunnels under the Mobile River in Mobile County. The state’s most severe chokepoints also include the following: I-65 from I-20 to US 31 in Jefferson County, US 280 from Brook Highland Parkway to Riverview Road in Jefferson County, I-65 from SR 119 to I-459 in Jefferson and Shelby Counties, US 280 from Cahaba River Road / Dolly Ridge Road to Cherokee Drive in Jefferson County, I-65 from Airport Boulevard to Springhill Avenue in Mobile County, I-65 from County Road 52 to State Road 119 in Shelby County, I-20 from Airport Highway to US 31 in Jefferson County, Birmingham’s regional transit system, and I-85 from I-65 to Taylor Road in Montgomery County. The report’s appendix contains a full list of the 40 worst chokepoints in the state as well as possible solutions to ease each chokepoint.

“In addition to causing a headache for motorists, Alabama’s transportation chokepoints stifle economic development and growth at a time when it is desperately needed. Alabama can’t get where it needs to go – in both a literal and an economic sense – without an efficient transportation system” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP.

As part of reversing the current economic downturn and facilitating long-term economic growth, Alabama will need to address its numerous surface transportation chokepoints.  Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s surface transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields.  In the long term, these improvements will enhance economic competitiveness by improving access and mobility, which will stimulate sustained job growth and improve the quality of life in Alabama.

Making needed improvements to the state’s transportation system can help boost Alabama’s economy. The state’s unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in August 2007 to 9.2 percent in August 2010. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.

The Federal Highway Administration also estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.

“One of the most important aspects of improving our highways and bridges is safety,” said Clay Ingram, AAA Alabama spokesperson. “Increasing mobility and reducing congestion is also important, but saving lives is the best investment we can make for the motorists of Alabama.

video Link:

http://www.myfoxal.com/global/category.asp?c=195956&autoStart=true&topVideoCatNo=default&clipId=5238022&flvUri=&partnerclipid=

Alabama’s Transportation Chokepoints:

The Top 40 Chokepoints and Remedies for Relief

October 2010

Executive Summary

The ease with which residents, visitors and businesses can access desired destinations has a significant impact on a region’s economic well-being and quality of life. A reasonable level of mobility provides tremendous freedom in accessing activities and opportunities, and choosing where to live, work, play and shop

When a transportation facility, including a roadway segment, an interchange, or a transit route, cannot meet the demand for reliable mobility, it chokes local, regional or interstate travel, diminishes the quality of life of residents and visitors, and reduces business productivity.

Continued growth in Alabama’s population and travel is straining the capacity of the state’s surface transportation system and impeding quality of life by hampering commuting, commerce and other travel.

In this report, TRIP looks at the impact of growth on the state’s surface transportation system and the potential consequences if Alabama is unable to make needed improvements to provide a level of mobility adequate to meet the needs of a growing state.

As part of facilitating long-term economic growth, Alabama will need to address its numerous surface transportation chokepoints. Enhancing critical segments of Alabama’s surface transportation system will boost the state’s economy in the short-term by creating jobs in construction and related fields. In the long term these improvements will enhance economic competitiveness by improving access and mobility, which will stimulate sustained job growth, improving the quality of life for all Alabamans.

This report identifies Alabama’s 40 worst surface transportation chokepoints. Addressing these chokepoints will be critical to maintaining the state’s high quality of life by improving mobility, reducing delays, enhancing environmental quality and supporting economic growth. The major findings of the report are:

Alabama’s quality of life and economic productivity are being reduced by chokepoints in the state’s surface transportation system. These chokepoints include major roads, highways and public transit routes that impede routine travel, commuting or commerce, or that place limits on economic development opportunities because of out-dated design or lack of adequate capacity.

  • Alabama’s top 40 surface transportation chokepoints include urban interchanges and highway segments, public transit routes and sections of rural highways that are unable to meet a region’s need for adequate mobility. This constraint on reliable transportation harms business productivity and reduces access to housing, employment, recreation, entertainment and social functions.
  • A list of Alabama’s top 20 surface transportation chokepoints is included in the report. Additional information on the state’s top 40 surface transportation chokepoints, including needed improvements, can be found in the appendix.
  • TRIP ranked Alabama’s top 40 surface transportation chokepoints by assigning each chokepoint an overall score based on the following factors: volume of daily travel or ridership; the severity of the congestion or crowding; the importance of the route or facility to local, regional and interstate travel; whether a route or facility provided mobility to non-motorists; and the impact of the chokepoint on overall quality of life in a region, including environmental and economic impact.

The top ten surface transportation chokepoints in Alabama are:

1. Interstate 10 Wallace Tunnel under the Mobile River in Mobile County. Traffic leading to the tunnel backs up daily, with back-ups on holidays often stretching for miles, including Labor Day in 2010, when the back-up was 16 miles long. Carrying 66,000 vehicles per day, Interstate 10 at the tunnel narrows from eight-lanes to four-lanes. Interstate 10 serves as a critical east-west link, stretching from California to Florida. A planned six-lane Interstate 10 bridge over the Mobile River would greatly relieve this chokepoint. The project is currently in the environmental review process.

2.  Interstate 65 from Interstate 20 to US 31 in Jefferson County. This section of Interstate 65, which carries 142,000 vehicles per day, is heavily congested, particularly at the University Boulevard, Green Springs Highway and West Oxmoor interchanges, with travel speeds during rush hour averaging 35 miles per hour versus 55 miles per hour during non-peak hours. This route, which is a critical corridor in and out of downtown Birmingham, could be improved with modifications to its key interchanges.

3. US Highway 280 from Brook Highland Parkway to Riverview Road in Jefferson County. This critical commuter route in the Southeast portion of the Birmingham urban area, carrying 84,000 vehicles daily, is heavily congested, with speeds often decreasing to under 20 miles per hour during peak hours versus 55 miles per hour during non-peak hours. Congestion at this chokepoint could be relieved with improvements to parallel routes and improved transit service in this corridor.

4. Interstate 65 from State Road 119 to Interstate 459 in Jefferson and Shelby Counties. This section of Interstate 65, which carries 110,000 vehicles per day, is heavily congested, particularly at the State Road 119 and Interstate 459 interchanges, with travel speeds during rush hour averaging 45 miles per hour versus 60 miles per hour during non-peak hours. This route, which is a critical corridor in Birmingham’s southern suburbs including the city of Hoover, could be improved with modifications to its key interchanges.

5. US Highway 280 from Cahaba River Road/Dolly Ridge Road to Cherokee Drive in Jefferson County. This critical commuter route in the Southeast portion of the Birmingham urban area, carrying 75,000 vehicles daily, is heavily congested, with speeds often decreasing to under 20 miles per hour during peak hours versus 55 miles per hour during non-peak hours. Congestion at this chokepoint could be relieved with improvements to parallel routes and improved transit service in this corridor.

6. Interstate 65 from Airport Boulevard to Springhill Avenue in Mobile County. This section of Interstate 65, which carries 99,000 vehicles per day, experiences significant congestion each morning and early evening as Interstate travelers, large trucks and commuters converge. The construction of an outer highway loop on the western part of the region would alleviate congestion at this chokepoint.

7. Interstate 65 from County Road 52 to State Road 119 in Shelby County. This section of Interstate 65, which carries 82,000 vehicles per day, is heavily congested, particularly at the County Road 52 and State Road 119 interchanges. This route, which is a critical corridor from downtown Birmingham to its southern suburbs, could be improved with modifications to its key interchanges.

8. Interstate 20 from Airport Boulevard to U.S. 280/U.S. 31 in Jefferson County. This section of Interstate 20, which carries 154,000 vehicles per day, experiences significant congestion, particularly as it approaches a merge with Interstate 59 and the interchange with Airport Highway.            This route, which is a critical corridor from downtown Birmingham to its eastern suburbs and for interstate travel and freight movement, could be improved with modifications to its key interchanges.

9.  The regional transit system for the Birmingham area. The level of service provided by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority is inadequate to meet the mobility needs of the region, including the transportation needs of people without access to private vehicles. It is also inadequate to offer congestion relief on some of the area’s most choked transportation corridors. The average travel time between buses on the region’s 37 transit routes ranges from 60 to 90 minutes and daily ridership on the system is approximately 8,500. Increased service frequency and improved vehicle maintenance is needed to meet the region’s mobility needs. Services along some routes also need to be reconfigured to increase the efficiency of the system, which will attract additional ridership.

10. Interstate 85 from Interstate 65 to Taylor Road in Montgomery County. This section of Interstate 85, which carries 100,000 vehicles per day, experiences significant congestion, particularly as it approaches an interchange with Interstate 65. Congestion on this route, which is a critical east-west commuter corridor and also provides significant interstate travel and freight transportation, could be relieved by an improved interchange with Interstate 65, the construction of an outer highway loop in the region, and improved regional public transit service.

Increases in population, vehicle travel and economic activity in Alabama have outpaced improvements to the state’s roadway and transit system, resulting in increased congestion. Reduced transportation reliability may become an impediment to Alabama’s economic development and may have an adverse effect on tourism.

  • Between 1990 and 2008, vehicle travel in Alabama increased by 40 percent, from approximately 42 billion miles of travel to approximately 59 billion miles.
  • Between 1990 and 2010, Alabama’s population increased by 18 percent, from approximately 4 million to 4.8 million.
  • Population gains are expected to continue at a significant rate in Alabama, increasing by another 750,000 people to 5.6 million people in 2030, a 16 percent increase from 2010.
  • Despite the nation’s economic downturn, Alabama has experienced significant long-term economic growth. From 1990 to 2008, Alabama’s gross domestic product (GDP), increased by 45 percent when adjusted for inflation.
  • A report from the Reason Foundation found that traffic congestion in the Birmingham area is expected to more than double by 2030 unless the region’s transportation system is improved.
  • Trips in the Birmingham area take 15 percent longer to complete during rush hours, as compared to non-peak periods of the day. By 2030, the report found that unless major steps are taken to relieve traffic congestion in the Birmingham urban area, the average rush hour trip will take 32 percent longer to complete than during non-peak hours.
  • Approximately $183 billion in goods are shipped annually from sites in Alabama. Seventy-six percent of the goods shipped annually from sites in Alabama are carried by trucks, another 10 percent are carried by courier services, which use trucks for part of the deliveries, and another 5 percent are delivered by a combination of truck and rail.

Sustaining Alabama’s long-term economic growth and maintaining the state’s high quality of life will require increased investment in expanding the capacity of the state’s surface transportation system, which will enhance business productivity and support short and long-term job creation in the state.

  • Surface transportation projects that improve the efficiency, condition or safety of a highway or transit route provide significant economic benefits by reducing transportation delays and costs associated with a deficient transportation system. The following are some of the benefits resulting from transportation improvements.

>Improved business competitiveness because of reduced production and distribution costs as a result of increased travel speeds and fewer mobility barriers.

>Improvements in household welfare as a result of better access to higher-paying jobs, a wider selection of competitively priced consumer goods, additional housing and healthcare options, and improved mobility for residents without access to private vehicles.

>Gains in local, regional and state economies as a result of improved regional economic competitiveness, which stimulates population and job growth.

>Increased leisure/tourism and business travel as a result of enhanced reliability of a region’s transportation system.

>A decrease in economic losses from traffic congestion in the form of delays and wasted fuel.

  • The Federal Highway Administration estimates that each dollar spent on road, highway and bridge improvements results in an average benefit of $5.20 in the form of reduced vehicle maintenance costs, reduced delays, reduced fuel consumption, improved safety, reduced road and bridge maintenance costs, and reduced emissions as a result of improved traffic flow.
  • Making needed improvements to the state’s transportation system can help boost Alabama’s economy. A 2007 analysis by the Federal Highway Administration found that every $1 billion invested in highway construction would support approximately 27,800 jobs, including approximately 9,500 in the construction sector, approximately 4,300 jobs in industries supporting the construction sector, and approximately 14,000 other jobs induced in non-construction related sectors of the economy.
  • Alabama’s unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in August 2007 to 9.2 percent in August 2010.

In order to accommodate the continued growth in vehicle travel, without experiencing a significant increase in traffic congestion, Alabama will need to both expand the capacity of its roadway and transit systems and make further improvements in the efficiency of its existing transportation system.            These plans should continue to include and enhance the following.

  • Effectively increasing the transportation system through expanded road and highway capacity, improved freight movement corridors, improved public transit systems and enhanced sidewalks and bike paths.
  • Improving traffic flow and system efficiency through better traffic signalization, ramp metering, faster incident response times and driver information systems.
  • Implementing programs to reduce the number of peak-hour vehicle trips, including telecommuting, flextime and ridesharing programs.

The outcome of ongoing Congressional deliberations over a future federal surface transportation program will have a significant impact on Alabama’s ability to relieve many of its surface transportation chokepoints.

  • Federal spending levels for highways and public transit in Alabama are based on the current federal surface transportation program, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act – A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which was approved by Congress in 2005. The SAFETEA-LU program expires on December 31, 2010. Congress is currently deliberating over a long-range federal surface transportation program to follow SAFETEA-LU.

The full TRIP Alabama Report is available at www.tripnet.org

All data used in this report is the latest available. TRIP’s report is based on information obtained from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT), the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham, the City of Huntsville, the City of Montgomery, the South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the Urban Land Institute and the Reason Foundation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*