Rush hour nightmares: which US cities have the worst backups

Do you think your city has the worst rush hour? No, Los Angeles, it’s not you. And New York, fugetaboutit.

On Tuesday, the Texas Transportation Institute, part of Texas A&M University in College Station, released its annual rankings, based on such things as yearly delay per commuter and travel time to and from work.

Here are the five US cities that ranked as having the worst traffic congestion last year.

5. New York – Newark, N.J. – Connecticut

Those outside the city may know it for its airport, but those who live in Newark know all too well that traffic snarls the city's highways all week.

Residents of this tri-state area are used to long backups on the highways surrounding New York City. What driver has not sat for hours on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or the Cross Bronx Expressway, which funnels traffic toward New England?

One big reason the traffic is so bad is because there is no way to move rail freight under the Hudson River, according to Robert Sinclair Jr. of AAA New York. As a result, he says, the George Washington Bridge and the Holland Tunnel get backed up, as truckers move everything from groceries to lumber.

“The trucks cause congestion,” Mr. Sinclair says. “They tear up the roads and cause soot.”

Moreover, many of the region’s roads are old and narrow. For example, the Gowanus Expressway lacks a breakdown lane. “Some guy loses a radiator hose, and you have miles of traffic tied up,” says Sinclair.

This year, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey raised tolls by 50 percent in the cash lanes coming from New Jersey. The $12 toll has resulted “in a dramatic lessening in the number of cars coming through the Lincoln Tunnel,” Sinclair says. “Now, the parking lots in New Jersey are full, and the buses and trains are jampacked.”

Yet over the past several years, many of the area roads have been resurfaced, which should help move traffic. On the other hand, few roads have been expanded to account for a larger flow of vehicles. New York will add 1 million residents over the next 20 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has predicted.

“We’re not doing anything to cut down on traffic,” says Sinclair. “We’re in a different world in terms of volume and speeds,” he says.

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