Let’s face it — Houston is known for a lot of things: like dining, our cutting-edge medical center and extensive shopping. However, you can’t mention Bayou City without making note of the vexing traffic.
All across the city, residents are burdened with long commutes and construction, and new data found that it may be getting worse as summer approaches. The study found that Houston traffic increased by 6.7 percent in April compared to July of last year, ranking No. 4 in major cities with increased traffic succeeding Washington, Nashville and Boston.
City traffic hit all-time lows throughout the pandemic, but according to Public Information Officer Danny Perez at TxDot, it was a major success for artery construction due to limited traffic; most notably the I-610 West Loop/I-69 Southwest Freeway interchange project.
“We had the ability to consult with the contractor to close lanes for roadwork earlier than normal and open later than normal. We normally only allow the contractor to close lanes for overnight work from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. However, we were allowing them to close as early as 7 p.m. and opening at 6 a.m,” Perez explains. “This extra time allowed the contractor to finish various elements of the project sooner and get new ramps opened sooner.”
But traffic hasn’t increased everywhere. The report includes that inversely, metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles and Chicago saw a decrease in traffic, and traffic in Philadelphia and Atlanta remained the same.
As for Houston, there are a few reasons why our traffic is escalating. Plenty of Californians are finding new homes in Harris County, and Perez supported the notion that those population increases do in fact play a role in the upsurge in traffic.
“The Houston area continues to experience tremendous growth and this contributes to increases in traffic,” Perez tells Houstonia. “Further, with more residents comes more freight coming into the area. This also adds to the impacts on mobility throughout the region.”
With summer closely approaching, we can also anticipate more motorists hitting the road to travel for summer vacations and road trips. Traffic was up 12.4 percent in March in Houston than in April, which the data firmly attributed to spring break, and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.
“As the weather improves, more motorists will take to the road to travel locally or to other areas of the state. This is especially true for the weekends,” Perez says.
Houston roadways will likely be packed in the coming months, and Perez encourages drivers to be hypervigilant, as our roadways saw an uptick in more aggressive driving, speeding and more people driving without regard for safety.
As you and the fam plan for those road trips for summer, be sure to plan to include an extra hour, or three, to your destination time.
For more information and details on the study, visit Waze.