Although Portland is now the 26th largest city in the U.S., its traffic has quickly outpaced that. A comprehensive study on traffic patterns released by INRIX Inc. places Portland at #12 on a list of the nation’s top 15 cities with the worst traffic congestion. INRIX, a leader in transportation analytics, studied over one thousand cities across 38 countries for the largest traffic congestion study ever conducted. The study looked at 240 cities in the United States, which was deemed the most congested developed country in the world.
It wasn’t INRIX’s first study on global traffic patterns, but it was the first study in which the company performed an economic analysis to include figures showing the direct and indirect costs of congestion. The analysis estimated the total cost to the average driver in a city and the total cost to the city population. Direct costs were considered to be paid by the driver through wasted time and fuel while indirect costs took into account the increased costs to businesses that are then passed onto the consumer through higher prices. At #12, Portland drivers spent an average of $1,358 and lost 47 hours to congestion in just one year. The city lost $1 billion.
Why is there so much traffic?
The study cites “a stable U.S. economy, continued urbanization of major cities, and factors such as employment growth and low gas prices” for reasons that traffic continues to rise. In Portland, the combination of population growth, a robust economy, and cheap gas is a toxic formula.
These days, nearly every hour is considered “rush hour” on the city’s most populated freeways. If you’ve been noticing your daily commute getting longer, it’s not your imagination. With more jobs and more money to buy cars to drive to those jobs, and more freight traffic, there are certainly many more cars on the road slowing you down. Overall, nine key bottlenecks in the Portland metro area conspire to make your daily commute just a little more excruciating, one day at a time.
Portland’s Major Bottlenecks
#9: I-205 SB. Interstate 205 going southbound resembles a parking lot between the hours of 2:30 and 6pm, particularly the 5.3-mile stretch between the Glenn Jackson Bridge and the Division Street exit. You can expect bumper-to-bumper traffic for at least three and a half hours at this time of day.
#8: I-205 NB. Heading northbound on I-205 is no longer a breeze. The 8.5-mile stretch connecting Interstate 5 to the Abernethy Bridge slows to a crawl between 3:15 and 6:15 pm. The average speed reaches 35.4 miles per hour.
#7: I-405 SB. For a period of four hours during the day, heading south on the 405 can be the most excruciating part of your day. If you must cover the 3.5-mile distance between the Fremont Bridge and I-5 between, you can expect heavy congestion as early as 2:15 pm. At this stretch, drivers reach an average speed of 29 miles per hour.
#6: Oregon 217 SB. Heading south on Oregon 217 is a doozy for two long stretches. Cars suffocate the 3.5 miles between Denny Road and I-5 for 5 hours and 15 minutes each day between 7:15 and 9 am, and 3 pm to 6:30 pm.
#5: I-5 NB. Those of you commuting to Vancouver are in for a real treat. Rush hour begins at 1:30 pm and lasts until 7:30 pm. The high congestion window applies to an 11.5-mile stretch starting at Capitol Highway and ending at the Interstate Bridge. Evening commuters average less than 32 miles per hour.
#4: Oregon 217 SB. From noon to 6:15 pm, you can expect gridlock as you inch south through the 3.5 miles from U.S. 26 to Hall Boulevard.
#3: I-84 EB. As early as 12:30 pm you can find afternoon gridlock for six miles starting at I-5 to I-205 until 7:00 pm.
#2: I-5 SB. Heading south on I-5 from Rosa Parks Way to the Rose Quarter becomes a parking lot between 7:45 am and 9:45 am, then between 11 am and 6:15 pm for a grand total of 9 hours and 15 minutes. Prime drive time has increased 2.5 hours since 2013.
#1: US 26 EB. The nearly 5-mile stretch from Oregon 217 is now congested for 13.5 hours from 6:15 am to 7:45 pm.
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