Rush hour nightmares: which US cities have the worst backups

Five US cities with the worst traffic congestion: Think your city has the worst traffic? No, Los Angeles, it’s not you. And New York, fugetaboutit.

By , Staff writer

3. Los Angeles – Long Beach – Santa Ana

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    With some of the worst traffic in America, Los Angeles has a lot of work to do. Closing the 405 earlier this year became such a big story that it even became national news. When was the last time highway construction in your city made national headlines?
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In the past, L.A. was usually No. 1 for traffic congestion. But the recession has kept some Los Angelenos off the road. Nevertheless, the area still has some of the worst traffic jams in America – and not just at rush hour, says the Automobile Club of Southern California.

“We have a lot of middle-of-the-day and evening traffic, when people are going shopping or going to restaurants,” says Stephen Finnegan, manager of government affairs for the AAA affiliate. “In southern California, it’s not unusual to see traffic backed up in every direction on every highway.”

The area’s drivers, he says, face two challenges: geographic bottlenecks and political bottlenecks.

The geographic bottleneck takes place where Highway 101 and Interstate 405 converge in the San Fernando Valley. “There are few travel options and only one freeway,” Mr. Finnegan explains. “They are adding a car-pool lane in an effort to improve things.”

The political bottleneck is exemplified by I-5, which goes from the Mexico border north through L.A. before ending in Oregon. In Orange County, the road is a 12-lane expressway, but it narrows to six lanes as it gets to Los Angeles.

“There is a lack of coordination between the two counties,” says Finnegan. “L.A. County is looking to expand, but that is still a ways off.”

He says one good thing that has happened in southern California is a sales tax to fund transportation improvements. “But we’re really playing catch-up,” he says. “We have a lot to do given our years of inadequate investment.”

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