Study: Columbus traffic congestion lessening – slightly

If you are stuck in traffic right now, you may find this hard to believe, but a recent study indicates roadway congestion in Columbus has improved – albeit slightly – over the past couple years.

As the rest of the country’s major cities continue to see traffic congestion worsen, the traffic situation in Columbus is actually holding steady and even improving. So say researchers with the Texas Transportation Institute. The institute’s 20th annual mobility study finds that of the largest 75 metro areas in the nation, Columbus is pretty far down on the list when it comes to congestion — coming in at 41st. Looking at the list, you see traffic is worse in cities like Los Angeles and Boston.. that you’d expect. But traffic congestion is also worse in cities like Memphis, Albuquerque, and Tacoma.

The Transportation Institute’s David Schrank says Columbus commuters are finally seeing the benefits of all the highway construction we lived through the past few years.

The study found Columbus drivers spend, on average, an extra 33 hours a year on the road because of congestion. That’s not bad compared to LA where drivers spend an extra 90 hours a year stuck in traffic. And while time wasted on Columbus highways has doubled in the last two decades, local drivers have cut their wasted time by an hour over the past 5 years. Schrank says that’s because the orange barrels have been put in storage.

The study could have public policy implications. Predictions of worsening congestion are a driving force behind efforts to improve the area’s public transportation system, namely to spend a half-billion dollars to build a light rail line.

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission or MORPC, backs the light rail project. MORPC’s director of transporation, Robert Lawler says the study is just a snapshot of the present situation. He says congestion is bound to increase as the area’s population expands.