Politics & Government

You may not believe this while stuck on I-77: Study says Charlotte traffic not that bad

A recent study by INRIX found Charlotte was the 40th most congested city in the nation.
A recent study by INRIX found Charlotte was the 40th most congested city in the nation. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

Think Charlotte traffic is bad?

A new national study says plenty of smaller metro areas have it worse.

On the latest INRIX Global Traffic Scorecard, Charlotte ranked as the 42nd most congested out of 240 U.S. cities. A number of smaller cities ranked higher in misery than Charlotte, including Baton Rouge, La. (20th); Nashville, Tenn. (23rd); North Charleston, S.C. (37th) and Ann Arbor, Mich. (40th).

The Charlotte metro area, which includes Gastonia and Concord, is the nation’s 22nd largest, according to the U.S. Census.

Charlotte drivers spent 23.4 hours stuck in congestion during peak times in 2016, according to the study.

The worst U.S. city was Los Angeles, where drivers spent 101.4 hours in traffic. Los Angeles was also the most congested in the world, according to the study. Atlanta was the fourth-worst in the nation and ninth-worst in the world, at 70.4 hours.

INRIX, based in Kirkland, Wash., makes its estimates by harvesting traffic speeds from millions of cellphones and other GPS devices in cars and trucks.

Charlotte’s most congested highway is Interstate 77 in north Mecklenburg, which is currently under construction and being widened with express toll lanes.

It’s unclear how much that project will do to alleviate congestion. The project will allow drivers willing to pay a toll to travel quickly – at least 45 mph – but people choosing to use the free, general-purpose lanes may still be stuck.

The N.C. Department of Transportation is also planning express toll lanes for I-485 in south Charlotte; Independence Boulevard; and I-77 south of uptown.

Other N.C. cities fared much better than Charlotte.

Raleigh was ranked 72nd out of 240 cities. Drivers there spent 18 hours last year in congestion.

Greensboro was the 232nd-worst city in the county out of 240 cities. Drivers only spent 4.2 hours in congestion last year.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs