JOPLIN, Mo. — For those who’ve experienced the nightmare of heavy interstate traffic, the aggravation and stress it likely causes drivers, can bring on many dangerous behaviors such as Road Rage. Unfortunately, traffic congestion on U.S. interstates is expected to get worse.
New data from the National Transportation Research Nonprofit (TRIP) and the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) show traffic congestion is increasing nationwide, especially across Missouri’s Interstate Highway System, as the amount of vehicle travel far exceeds the capacity added to the system.
Since the beginning of the Interstate era 65 years ago, Missouri and the nation have seen enormous increases in population, motor vehicles and vehicle travel. Today (10/13), MoDOT released traffic volume data on several busy sections of Interstate 44.
In Joplin, the numbers show that over 10-year span from 2011 to 2022, traffic at I-44 and Main Street increased by just over 20,000 vehicles. During that same time frame, the number of vehicles at I-44 and Range Line increased by nearly 18,000.
The new traffic data also shows that during the COVID years of 2020 and 2021, the U.S. experienced a large decrease in traffic congestion. The number of vehicles on the road dropped significantly during those years. But now, TRIP data shows vehicles are back on America’s interstates, and in numbers greater than what was observed during a two-year period leading up to the COVID pandemic.
MoDOT says several factors contribute to the increase in vehicles, not only on Missouri’s interstates but on the American Interstate Highway System as a whole. The two largest contributors to interstate congestion today come from the number of vehicles on the road and the distance people travel.
From 1956 to 2020, the nation’s population nearly doubled, but the number of motor vehicles increased by a staggering 324%, according to U.S. vehicle registration numbers. As for vehicle travel, that increased by 427%, to approximately 3.3 trillion miles (according to data from TRIP).
The third major contributing factor to interstate congestion comes from an increase in semi-truck traffic. Since 2000, the amount of large truck travel on U.S. interstates has increased at a rate that’s more than double that of the total travel on America’s Interstate system. TRIP claims in 2019, the U.S. Interstate System carried 55% of all large commercial truck travel in the U.S.
Because of e-commerce corporations like Amazon and Walmart, the transportation of freight by semi-truck is expected to grow at a much faster rate in the near future, adding more large vehicles to an already over-crowded interstate system across the U.S.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Transportation says congestion is expected to get worse on America’s interstates, as metropolitan areas become more crowded and e-commerce continues to drive delivery demand.