Gridlock

Max Kvidera and Todd Dills | November 01, 2010

Ahead of Dorsey at the shipper, also on a pickup, was Davis Transfer driver Anthony Adams. As we waited to get loaded, Adams told us of the fire we’d missed on the northwest section of the I-285 loop that had traffic at a virtual standstill for about six miles. Adams, like Dorsey, had expected this of Atlanta at rush hour, so he called on stores of patience and rode it out. Earlier in the week, though, when a container truck’s accident on I-26 between Charleston and Columbia, S.C., backed up westbound traffic for 30 miles, Adams chose an alternate route around the mishap.

Davis Transfer driver Anthony Adams

Accidents and other traffic incidents, according to American Transportation Research Institute data from 2008, cause 25 percent of the congestion on the nation’s roadways, following bottlenecks at 40 percent. After weather, the fourth most significant contributor to congestion is road construction, which was active this summer because of federal stimulus spending.

As more states, like Tennessee, schedule roadwork at night to avoid creating congestion problems, the work-zone delay invariably slows those who choose to run at night to avoid daytime congestion headaches, such as Dorsey. “The load I have tonight, for instance,” he said. “It’s only four hours from Atlanta to Nashville — if I have the hours to move it, why not move it at night, do my 10 hours in Nashville and be staged perfectly for a morning delivery?”

When Dorsey’s truck was finally loaded with pallets of bagged mortar mix bound for a Nashville Home Depot just after 9 p.m., we encountered a brief stop in traffic near a night construction zone at the I-20/I-285 junction and more construction nearing Murfreesboro before arriving back in Music City.


WORST BOTTLENECKS

By Todd Dills

The American Transportation Research Institute in 2009 began monitoring congestion at 100 freight-significant bottlenecks. The top 20 are ranked on a “Congestion Index,” which measures average 24-hour weekday mph.


#1 Chicago

1. Chicago, I-290 at I-90/94 30 mph

2. Chicago, I-90 at I-94 (north) 34 mph

3. Fort Lee, N.J., I-95 at SR-4 32 mph

4. Austin, Texas, I-35 35 mph

5. Atlanta, I-285 at I-85 (north) 47 mph

6. St. Louis, Mo., I-70 at I-64 (west) 42 mph

#7 Los Angeles

7. Los Angeles, SR-60 at SR-57 48 mph

8. Dallas, I-45 at I-30, 44 mph

9. Chicago, I-90 at I-94 (south) 47 mph

10. Philadelphia, I-76 at U.S. 30 36 mph

11. Louisville, Ky., I-65 at I-64/I-71 46 mph

12. Las Vegas, Nev., I-15 at I-515 38 mph

13. Kansas City, Mo., I-70 at I-670 at U.S. 71 45 mph

14. Houston, I-45 at U.S. 59 42 mph

15. Atlanta, I-75 at I-285 (north) 49 mph

16. Baton Rouge, La., I-10 at I-110 46 mph

17. New Haven, Ct., I-95 at I-91 42 mph

18. Minneapolis-St. Paul, I-35W at I-494 47 mph

19. Brooklyn, I-278 at Belt Parkway 37 mph

20. Washington, D.C., I-495 at I-66 44 mph


Fewer places to park

By Max Kvidera


When truckers complain about traffic congestion, they point to the shortage of safe parking spots as part of the problem. Drivers often have to stay on the road longer in search of a parking place. Many truckstops on heavily traveled highways fill up by mid-afternoon weekdays, drivers say.

Truckers shouldn’t expect much relief in years ahead based on recent trends. The number of truckstops with at least two showers and five parking spaces has declined to 2,174 in 2010 from 2,309 in 2005, according to Robert de Vos, president of TR Publishing, publishers of the National Truck Stop Directory.

While the total number of facilities has decreased, the share owned or operated by the major chains has increased. A prime example is Love’s Travel Centers. Over the past six years, the company added about 60 truckstops — most of them new facilities, says Jenny Love Meyer, director of communications. This year the company has developed 14 new truckstops (while picking up 26 locations when Pilot and Flying J merged) and plans to build a couple more by yearend, she says. In 2011 the company has plans for 18-20 more locations.

“We’re atypical in the fact we’ve been aggressively growing,” Love Meyer says.

Truckers shut out of truckstops often can’t turn to state-run rest areas and welcome centers for short-term parking. Many states are considering closing rest areas to save money on maintenance. New Mexico is contemplating closing about half of approximately 30 facilities along Interstates. Virginia reopened 19 facilities earlier this year that had been closed in 2009.

Several states are looking at hiring private companies to operate rest facilities. Georgia has opened bidding to private companies to run the state’s 26 facilities in return for advertising and sponsorship revenue.

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