In 2009, researchers at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) began compiling its Texas 100 Most Congested Highways list as part of an interagency contract with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT).
Over the past nine years, the list has helped TxDOT identify and begin to address the most congested highways in the state. It’s also enhanced Texas’ reputation as a recognized leader in performance measurement activities. Several departments of transportation around the country have expressed interest in implementing strategies similar to the Lone Star State’s proactive approach to measuring and mitigating congestion.
“Performance measures are important to determine problem areas that need further investigation or improvement, as well as to provide assessments of the benefits from implemented projects, programs and policies,” explains David Schrank, TTI senior research scientist and principal investigator. “This is true for all kinds of projects in large urban regions, small urban centers and even rural areas.”
The Texas 100 list gauges numerous mobility performance measures for almost 1,800 sections (or 10,000 centerline miles) of roadway. For the past three years, major roads in all of the 25 Texas urban areas have been included in the list; at least 20 road sections are monitored annually for congestion in each region.
“The multilevel approach enables us to tell TxDOT and local planners how the state’s entire highway system is performing,” says Schrank. “But our work produces many other benefits that help TxDOT expand its analytical capabilities.”
Ancillary benefits from compiling the list include the following:
Speed data are provided to all TxDOT divisions and districts by TTI after they are linked to the TxDOT Roadway-Highway Inventory Network (RHiNo). This linkage allows all of the conversations and analyses to be based on TxDOT’s mapping and the other data in TxDOT’s road inventory and condition dataset. In addition to the speed data, TTI calculates congestion statistics for all RHiNo segments where speed data are available. This allows users to have ready-to-use statistics for comparing roadway sections.
TxDOT’s partnerships with Texas metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) allow access to speed and congestion statistics. MPOs can then team with their local TxDOT districts to prioritize potential projects aimed at relieving congestion and improving mobility.
TxDOT’s Freight and International Trade Section and Freight Advisory Committee can use data derived from the Texas 100 to identify truck bottlenecks and potential mobility improvement strategies.
TTI calculates annual statewide system performance measures for TxDOT’s Key Performance Measures list based on the available congestion statistics.