Washingtonians spent 16 percent more time looking at brake lights in 2011 than they did in 2009 as congestion and traffic delay increased on state highways. Despite the surge, the Washington State Department of Transportation’s 2012 Congestion Report notes that traffic increased by 3 percent from 2010 to 2011, according to a WSDOT press release.
Data for the past five years show that 2009 had the least congestion, and since then, congestion has increased as the economy slowly improves and more people return to work. But congestion in 2011 was still below pre-recession levels.
The report states weekday commuters on Mercer Island who use Interstate 90 through 2011 experienced a mixed bag of traffic congestion.
Morning commuters saw a significant worsening of traffic congestion along the eastbound I-90 Seattle to Bellevue morning commute. Average peak congestion is at its worst at 8:45 a.m. and is lasting one hour and 35 minutes, up from 25 minutes in 2010 and zero minutes in 2009. Overall, the Seattle - Bellevue AM commute saw a 19 percent increase in travel time, up from 14 to 17 minutes. WSDOT planners attributed the jump in traffic delays to the ongoing during 2010 and 2011. The project is scheduled for completion in 2015.
On the bright side, local commuters ability to use the — which according to the report are nearly never congested — allowed residents to avoid morning congestion on westbound I-90, and the ever-worsening evening traffic congestion on eastbound I-90 between Seattle and Issaquah.
The report doesn't take into account the . WSDOT said in a recent quarterly report that (called the "Gray Notebook") that noticeable differences were observed in year-over-year volume changes when comparing routes that do not cross Lake Washington with those that do cross the lake.
Vehicle volumes on the SR 520 bridge were down significantly in the first half of 2012 on a year-over-year basis, while I-90 volumes were up somewhat. On I-90, westbound volumes were up by 5 percent during the morning peak period and up by 2 percent in the evening peak period, and eastbound volumes up by 7 percent in the morning and up by 6 percent in the evening. Daily overall volumes were similarly affected, with SR 520 volumes down by 31 percent (westbound) and 37 percent (eastbound), and I-90 volumes up by 8 percent (westbound) and 10 percent (eastbound).
A report on the traffic impacts on I-90 due to the tolling on the SR 520 floating bridge is scheduled to be delivered to the State Legislature sometime early next year.
Among trips that saw travel time improvements from 2009 to 2011, the evening commutes on eastbound state Route 520 from Seattle to Redmond, and from Bellevue to Redmond, experienced two of the three largest double-digit percentage decreases. Travel times dropped by 16 percent and 21 percent, respectively, over the two-year period.
Another route that saw a significant improvement in travel time was southbound I-405 from Bellevue to Tukwila during the morning commute. This route saw an 18 percent reduction in travel time in 2011, following the completion in 2009 and 2010 of a series of WSDOT projects on the southern half of the I-405 corridor, including stages 1 and 2 of the I-405/I-5 to SR 169 project, which added lanes in both directions.
“This report plays an important role by presenting the data we use to analyze how our highways are performing,” said Daniela Bremmer, WSDOT director of strategic assessment. “It also serves as a tool that we and our local and federal partners rely on as we look ahead and collaborate to strategically invest our resources to improve how our highways perform.”
Peak time for commuters in the morning:
- To Seattle via I-405/I-90/I-5 from Bellevue - 8:40 a.m.
- To Bellevue via I-405/I-90/I-5 from Seattle - 8:45 a.m.
- To Seattle via I-90/I-5 from Issaquah - 7:45 a.m.
- To Tukwila via SB I-405 from Bellevue - 7:45 a.m.
- To Redmond I-405/SR 520 from Bellevue - 9:55 a.m.
Peak time for commuters in the evening:
- To Seattle via I-405/I-90/I-5 from Bellevue - 5:30 p.m.
- To Bellevue via I-5/I-90/I-405 from Seattle - 5:25 p.m.
- To Issaquah via I-5/I-90 from Seattle - 5:35 p.m.
- To Seatac via SB I-5 from Seattle - 4:40 p.m.
- To Bellevue via SR 520/I-405 from Redmond - 5:25 a.m.
WSDOT is using Moving Washington strategies to operate efficiently, manage demand and add capacity to improve drive times and highway safety. This effort is seeing successes, as noted in the report’s Before and After case studies of several statewide projects. Highlights from the latest edition include:
• Data on vehicle miles traveled on all public roads show that each Washingtonian drove 50 fewer miles in 2011 than in 2009, and 88 fewer miles than in 2010.
• Traffic delay in 2011 cost drivers and businesses approximately $780 million, approximately 16 percent higher than the $674 million in 2009.
• High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes continue to be more reliable than general purpose lanes and most carried more people in 2011 compared to 2010.
• WSDOT’s Incident Response program helped keep traffic moving and helped clear 44,492 incidents, providing drivers and businesses more than $72 million in economic benefits in 2011. To find out more about WSDOT accountability and view the 2012 Congestion Report, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Accountability/Graynotebook.