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February 9, 2022 7:00 AM, EST

Familiar Spots Lead ATRI’s Top Highway Bottlenecks

Fort Lee, N.J.Vehicles approach the George Washington Bridge toll plaza in Fort Lee, N.J. (Julio Cortez/AP)

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Some very familiar trouble spots lead the 2022 Top Truck Bottlenecks List from the American Transportation Research Institute.

For the fourth consecutive year, the intersection of Interstate 95 and New Jersey State Route 4 in Fort Lee, N.J., ranked as the worst freight bottleneck in the country, with average speeds of 30.1 mph. Average rush hour speeds of 22.4 mph were down 28.2% from 2020.

This spot has ranked at or near the top of the ATRI report for more than 10 years.

ATRI 2022 Top Truck Bottlen... by Transport Topics

Another perennial chokepoint claimed the No. 2 spot: downtown Cincinnati’s I-71/I-75 intersection, just north of the Brent Spence Bridge along the Ohio River.

A damaging fire on the bridge in November 2020 left transportation officials and engineers scrambling to repair the busy span, but the ensuing shutdown illuminated the vulnerability of the 59-year-old structure and demonstrated why officials from both Ohio and Kentucky are in discussions about the possibility of building a companion bridge nearby. This could be especially helpful for the region amid expansion of Amazon’s air and ground hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

ATRI’s analysis, which utilized data from 2021, found traffic levels rebounded broadly across the country as more Americans returned to work, and consumer demand for goods and services continued to grow amid persistent supply chain woes. Across the country, average rush hour truck speeds declined more than 11% from 2020 to 38.6 mph.

“ATRI’s bottleneck list is a road map for federal and state administrators responsible for prioritizing infrastructure investments throughout the country,” American Trucking Associations President Chris Spear said. “Every year, ATRI’s list highlights the dire needs for modernizing and improving our roads and bridges.”

The third-ranked site on the list is the Houston intersection of I-45/I-69/US-59, up two spots from a year ago.

Texas officials are proposing a $7.5 billion reroute and reconstruction plan for I-45. While the plan received approval from the Texas Department of Transportation a year ago, the controversial project faces opposition from community groups as it will require the demolition of more than 1,100 homes and apartments, 340 businesses and five houses of worship.

Houston has 10 of the top 100 bottlenecks in the ATRI report.

Two locations in Atlanta rank fourth and fifth; in fourth is the I-285/I-85 North interchange known locally as “Spaghetti Junction,” situated in suburban DeKalb County. On Atlanta’s west side, the intersection of I-20/I-285 ranks fifth.

Atlanta is a busy area for freight traffic, with numerous truck depots and a regional UPS Inc. sorting facility. The city sits just 14 miles from Hartsfield/Jackson International Airport, an increasingly important facility for cargo shipments.

For the second year in a row Chicago’s I-290/I-90/94 interchange claimed sixth place. The spot, named the Jane Byrne Interchange in honor of the city’s former mayor, is in the midst of an $800 million upgrade set for completion by the end of 2022.

The Los Angeles interchange of California State Routes 60/57, known to local residents as the “Diamond Bar interchange,” ranked seventh on the ATRI list.

Top 10 Bottlenecks 2022

1. Fort Lee, N.J.: I-95 at SR 4

2. Cincinnati: I-71 at I-75

3. Houston: I-45 at I-69/US 59 

4. Atlanta: I-285 at I-85 (North)

5. Atlanta: I-20 at I-285 (West)

6. Chicago: I-290 at I-90/I-94

7. Los Angeles: SR 60 at SR 57 

8. Dallas: I-45 at I-30

9. San Bernardino, Calif.: I-10 at I-15

10. Chattanooga, Tenn.: I-75 at I-24

The Dallas interchange of I-45/I-30 that runs through the center of the city ranked eighth. Texas Department of Transportation officials recently announced plans to widen and modernize I-30 in both directions from downtown Dallas to I-635 in Mesquite, an eastern suburb of Dallas. The $1 billion project could begin in 2026.

San Bernardino’s I-10/I-15 interchange ranked ninth in the report. The spot has seen huge growth in cargo shipments at nearby Ontario International Airport, where FedEx Corp. in 2020 completed a $100 million expansion.

Improving from seventh to 10th place is Chattanooga’s I-75/I-24 intersection, a stretch of road undergoing a $132.6 million upgrade. Tennessee’s DOT finished the first phase of the project in August 2021, and the second phase is scheduled to begin in spring 2023.

ATRI’s list of bottlenecks is an assessment of the level of truck-involved congestion at 300 locations on the national highway system. The group relied on truck GPS data from more than 1 million heavy-duty trucks to compile the bottlenecks data.

bridge collapse Pittsburgh

The Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed Jan. 28. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

On Jan. 28, 10 people were injured when the 49-year-old Fern Hollow Bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed, just hours before President Joe Biden was scheduled to visit the city to promote the infrastructure law’s benefits. During the trip, Biden visited the site of the downed bridge and promised it would be rebuilt.

Spear noted this incident elevated the importance of getting to work on the nation’s infrastructure.

“We have seen, most recently in Pittsburgh, that the cost of doing nothing could also cost lives,” he said. “It’s time to fund these projects and get our supply chains moving again.”

The full report, including details about the top 100 locations, is available at truckingresearch.org.

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