When I was asked to address the Illinois Association of Highway Engineers’ annual meeting which was being held in my hometown, I did some research on what I perceive as an increasingly more congested road system. The following graphs show that while our lane miles of traffic are up marginally since 1980, the number of miles traveled on those roads is up over 250%. No wonder it seems to always take me longer to get around!
Even more alarming was the area in red on the following two maps from 1998 and projected to 2020. The red area is highways that are operating at over 115% of their rated capacity.
Several months ago I spoke with Peter Kinder, the lieutenant governor for Missouri, who explained a plan to try to develop I-70 and I-44 the length of the state into 8 lane highways, with 4 of those for the exclusive use of cars. After studying the last two maps I could understand why they are looking at such a plan.
While much of rural America has not been bothered by serious highway congestion, other than our ‘rush-minute’ at the start and stop of the day, it is going to become more of an issue as the population of the country continues to grow and more people flee the ‘rat-race’ of the bigger cities for the tranquility of the countryside.