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Study Faults Planning for Raleigh-Area Traffic Flow

Posted March 19, 2007
Updated March 20, 2007

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— If you've ever been stuck in rush-hour traffic, you’ve probably thought it, but now a study by a UNC-Charlotte professor confirms your fears. Triangle traffic is getting worse.

The study, carried out by David T. Hartgen, a professor of transportation studies, gives the Raleigh area a grade of “C”—passing, but barely, and not on a good track for the future.

Triangle traffic is getting thicker. From 1995 to 2003, the study found, travel increased more than the population, and the issue gets bigger with every backup.

“If we don't get ahead of this problem, we're going to have serious difficulties with the competitiveness of the region,” said Hartgen, who got funding from the John Lock Foundation and the California-based Reason Foundation for his work, which is available online(.

Overall, Hartgen ranked North Carolina 48th among the 50 states in urban interstate congestion. Raleigh’s "C" is for the metropolitan area’s plans to deal with cars clogging roads.

“Overall, Raleigh's congestion is going to double in the next several decades. The plans we have are just barely adequate,” Hartgen said.

Hartgen argues that Raleigh-area transportation officials spend too much on transit—buses and plans for a train. He would like to see more spent to finish Interstate 540 faster and to widen I-40 more.

The Locke and Reason foundations that supported the work historically don't support mass transit efforts, such as the Triangle Transit Authority. The TTA didn't want to comment on this latest research, but a spokesperson did point out that a citizen's committee is about to begin a six-month study on congestion.

Hartgen said his study came to one certain conclusion on the subject.

“We don't have a choice. The region's going to grow. The only question is, are we going to deal with it or pass it on to our children?” the traffic engineer said.

The term “congestion” has several components when traffic engineers use it. It includes a comparison between the number of vehicles using roads how many vehicles the roads can handle, how long delays back up at intersections and a factor called a travel-time index. That’s a comparison of how long it takes to get from one place to another during peak and off-peak travel times.

How does the Raleigh metro area stack up against the rest of the state?

The Capital City beat out Durham's C-minus and Charlotte's D. This study says the Triad is in better shape. Greensboro scored a B-plus, and Winston-Salem got a B. Asheville and Goldsboro each scored an A-minus.


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  • Nobody but Carolina Mar 20, 2007

    Well, it certainly won't bother me to get more of a tax base in eastern Wake county. If 64 Bypass will help do that, great. The bypass is still a comfort for us since we no longer have to deal with back road commutes or the old 64 business commute with all the stop lights.

  • El Doggo Mar 20, 2007

    One day folks around here WILL LEARN! Roads are NOT built with the comfort of the citizens of the community in mind! They are built for the developers - exclusively! Not a road in the area has been built without consideration of development! Someone want to put in a mall - they push 540 through. Someone wants to build too many cracker box houses in zebulon - they put in 64 bypass. Overdevelop holly springs - widen 55. The list goes on and on!!! All roads are built, all water is provided (at tax payers expense) so developers can rape the area and not have to provide ANYTHING!

  • Nobody but Carolina Mar 20, 2007

    Well, at this point, my traffic pattern and commute has improved dramatically since the 64 Bypass has been opened. It's knocked 30 minutes off my daily round trip commute. With that said, I keep wondering how long it will be before it gets worse again with the build up of subdivisions and homes in the Wendell (where I live) and Zebulon areas as well as points just east of here such as Middlesex and Bailey, that will end up overloading the Bypass as well as 64 business again and things get worse again. For now, I'll enjoy my great commute.

  • El Doggo Mar 20, 2007

    I am right there with you nc609! I attempt to make sure that everything I accomplish each day takes me closer to moving away from this pit. I have certain commitments that I cannot leave at this time but when they are complete I will leave this slag heap to y'all.

  • WXYZ Mar 20, 2007

    An average of 35 more vehicles in Wake county every day! Whew! Well, I expect that as thousands of Baby Boomers retire over the next 15 years, they (like me) will sell their Wake County real estate (at a huge profit) and move somewhere, which is much less crowded. This goal makes my daily commute more and more tolerable. Ahhhhh!

  • El Doggo Mar 20, 2007

    I have an idea! Why doesn't everybody that thinks raleigh needs a subway or other train system MOVE TO WHERE THERE ARE TRAINS ALREADY!!!!!

    That will solve some of our problems...

  • smoothtip99 Mar 20, 2007

    We need a subway system in Raleigh desperately.

  • El Doggo Mar 20, 2007

    Good for you! You found a lobotomy at a discount!?!? I guess we can't count on you to help the situation? Thanks for contributing to the mess...

  • Politically Honest NOT PC Mar 20, 2007

    I have been driving a 50 mile one way commute to and from Raleigh for about 15 years. When I first started, I would become very agitated at the traffic situation, I would cuss, rant and rave and still be right where I was, STUCK in traffic. THEN I got smart. I realized that whether I got upset or not, I was still there. Now I sit back and look at those around me get upset. It is quite a show. I saw one guy get mad and start beating the dash of his car to the point where it acutally separated from the car because he was so mad at traffic for not moving as fast as he thought it should. After his dash came off, guess what, he was still there in traffic. Allow extra time for traffic, sit back, listen to the radio and watch the show. You WILL get to your destination and you will be in a better mood.

  • El Doggo Mar 20, 2007

    swimfast, we have already lost the great things about NC, now they are working on the good things that are left. :-(