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Rush-hour truck speeds slow to 36.3 mph at major bottlenecks

Truck drivers waited 6% longer on average in 2022 while driving through the nation’s most congested sections of highway at rush hour, according to the latest data compiled by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

Average peak-hour speeds were clocked at 36.3 mph at the top 100 freight bottlenecks, ATRI found, compared with 38.6 mph in 2021. The decrease follows an 11% drop in average speeds between 2020 and 2021.

The intersection of Interstate 95 and state Route 4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey, ranked as the worst freight bottleneck in the country for the fifth year in a row. Peak-hour speeds there averaged 20.2 mph. Among the top-10 locations, average rush hour truck speeds were less than 30 mph.

“The past year-plus has shone a spotlight on our supply chains, and how congestion and other pressures can hurt the American economy and consumers,” said American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear. ATRI is a not-for-profit affiliate of ATA.

“ATRI’s bottleneck report highlights the areas of our transportation network in need of investment so we can get goods and people moving. The cost of doing nothing is felt in needless delays, wasted fuel and time.”

Rank Congestion location Avg. rush hour speed (mph)
1 Fort Lee, N.J.: I-95 at SR 4 20.2
2 Chicago: I-294 at I-290/I-88 37.8
3 Houston: I-45 at I-69/U.S. 59 21.7
4 Atlanta: I-285 at I-85 (Northbound) 28.5
5 Atlanta: I-20 at I-285 (Westbound) 36.3
6 Chicago: I-290 at I-90/I-94 18.2
7 Los Angeles: SR 60 at SR 57 35.7
8 Los Angeles: I-710 at I-105 28.5
9 Nashville, Tenn.: I-24/I-40 at I-440 (Eastbound) 30.6
10 San Bernardino, Calif: I-10 at I-15 34.1
Source: ATRI Top Truck Bottlenecks, 2023

The list could become a key source of data for directing a significant slice of the $37 billion in federal funds set aside for freight infrastructure projects in the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Spear took that case to Congress last week, after he raised concerns that the Biden administration was prioritizing road maintenance and non-highway projects over new highway construction.

“Why do we have to draw lines between new and existing infrastructure?” Spear said, pointing to ATRI’s analysis. “We track this every year, so let’s address them. What we don’t want is to have really nice roads and bridges as we sit on them going nowhere.”

The ranking is extracted from more than 300 “freight-critical” locations that ATRI monitors. A “total freight congestion value” is based on truck GPS data and calculated using a formula that measures the impact of congestion on average commercial truck speeds.

In addition to Fort Lee, six other bottlenecks that were ranked in the top 10 in 2021 returned to the top of the rankings in 2022. Three locations are new to the top 10, including Interstate 294 at Interstate 290/Interstate 88 in Chicago (which was not among the top 100 at all in 2021), Interstate 710 at Interstate 105 in Los Angeles (ranked 91 last year), and Interstate 24/Interstate 40 at Interstate 440 (Eastbound) in Nashville, Tennessee (ranked 11 last year).

Texas had the most freight bottlenecks with 13, nine of which are in Houston.

Most improved among the 2021 top 10 bottlenecks was Chattanooga, Tennessee’s Interstate 75 at I-24 location, dropping from its No. 10 rank in 2021 to 59 in 2022. It had the second-highest increase in average rush-hour speed on the top 100 list, up 12% to 51.3 mph in 2022. 

Click for more FreightWaves articles by John Gallagher.