Video: Traffic bottlenecks increase

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 2/19/2004 7:33:20 PM ET 2004-02-20T00:33:20

Thursday morning’s rush in Houston found Michelle Willis fighting a bottleneck. “It’s pretty rough.  You are bumper to bumper.  You just have to deal with it because you are a prisoner in the vehicle. You just have to really deal with it,” Willis says.

Thursday, a group called the Highway Users Alliance, came out with a nationwide ranking of all the most fearsome highway bottlenecks, with motorists nicknames like “Malfunction Junction” in Tampa, the “Orange Crush” in Los Angeles or the “Spaghetti Bowl” in Las Vegas.

Why would anyone publish such a list?  Could it be because Congress is debating a six-year, massive spending bill for new highway construction, and this report was paid for by contractors and suppliers of cement and the like?

First the good news.  There are bottlenecks that are being fixed and are now off the worst list, like:

  • Boston’s Big Dig with $14 billion in new tunneling.
  • Chicago’s Hillside Strangler with $140 million in highway widening.
  • Washington, D.C.’s Mixing Bowl with well into $700 million worth of improvements.

But now the bad news. “Five years ago we saw 167 bottlenecks in 30 states. Today we see 233 in about 30 states. It’s gotten about 4 -percent worse,” said Diane Steed of the Highway Users Alliance.

And the very worst:

No 5: Los Angeles’ infamous I-405 at the Santa Monica Freeway

No. 4: Phoenix’s Mini-Stack, on I-10 downtown.

No. 3: Chicago’s Circle Interchange, just west of the Loop, downtown.

No. 2: Houston’s Inner loop, I-610, at the Katy Freeway on the west side (the intersection Michelle Willis was negotiating this morning.)

And, the No. 1 worst bottleneck in the nation?  Los Angeles’ I-405 again — this time at the Ventura Freeway.

For highway builders, they are all dream jobs, just waiting for funding.  But nightmares for Michelle Willis and the rest of us who have to drive through.

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