Portland congestion costly and growing, ODOT report finds

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Aug. 2, 2017


Kimberly Dinwiddie, 503-539-8454

Congestion costly and growing on Portland freeways but projects help, ODOT report says

Freeway congestion, delays and reliability have all gotten worse in the Portland area in recent years as the region and the economy grew, according to a new report released Wednesday by the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The 2016 Portland Region Traffic Performance Report also shows that targeted new highway initiatives such as auxiliary lanes and advanced technologies can significantly improve highway performance.

The cost of delay in these corridors is significant. On the I-5 corridor, for example, the congestion, bottlenecks and crashes caused more than $80 million in lost productivity in 2015.

The report studied data from the start of 2013 to the end of 2015 and found drivers, commuters and freight haulers alike must allow more and more time to ensure they reach their destinations on time.

“Data for the region’s six freeways show increasing congestion, decreasing travel speeds, greater delays and unreliable trip times,” the report found. “Traffic congestion in the Portland region can now occur at any hour of the day, including holidays and weekends; it is no longer only a weekday peak hour problem.”

The report looked at the performance of the region’s freeway system. Monitoring key indicators will help ODOT better manage the system and the movement of people, goods and services and better plan for future improvements.

The six highway corridors studied were Interstate 5, Interstate 84, Interstate 205, Interstate 405, U.S. 26 and OR 217.

The report found that:
• Freeway corridors are operating at or over capacity during peak periods.

• Drivers must budget enough time for a worst case scenario as the same trip can vary in duration day to day.

• As congestion grows, freeway crashes and delays contribute to worsening reliability.
Peak morning and afternoon periods are spreading into midday, getting longer and shrinking the congestion-free midday windows used by freight haulers to deliver goods and services. As mid-day becomes more unreliable, freight has more problems meeting delivery schedules, forcing up the cost of shipping.

The report found that crashes are increasing at a rate equal to the increase in congestion.

But it also found that recent ODOT improvements, among them RealTime signs and auxiliary lanes, have, in certain corridors, helped the crash trend stabilize or improve. An auxiliary lane is a dedicated lane from an on-ramp to the next off-ramp, reducing crashes caused by merging and weaving between exits.

These targeted improvements include:

• The eastbound I-84 auxiliary lane at Northeast Halsey Street, which saw a 14 percent decrease in crashes and a 10 percent decrease in delays.

• The RealTime signs on OR 217, activated in 2014, helped produce a 21 percent reduction in crashes in their first year despite increased traffic volumes through the region.

Approval of HB 2017, the Oregon Legislature’s 2017 transportation package, provides funding for targeted safety and congestion projects that can help address the issues found in the new report.

• Design work is underway to extend a northbound auxiliary lane on I-205 between Powell and I-84 and for implementation of ODOT RealTime on I-205 between Sunnyside and the Glenn Jackson Bridge. Construction will be complete by December 2019.

• Design is beginning to build northbound and southbound auxiliary lanes on OR-217.

Additional projects are being planned to provide greater reliability in the Portland area:

• Construction work is currently underway to expand ODOT RealTime along U.S. 26 (Sunset Highway) and I-84.

• Planning and preliminary design work is underway for future investment along I-5 near the Rose Quarter and to widen I-205 between Stafford Road and the Abernethy Bridge.

To see the full report, go to: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/Regions/Documents/Region1/2016_TPR_FinalReport.pdf