Washingtonians spent 16 percent more time looking at brake lights in 2011 than they did in 2009 as congestion and traffic delay increased on state highways, but there was some improvement along some Bellevue routes, according to a study the state released.
Data for the past five years show that 2009 had the least congestion, and since then, congestion has increased as the economy slowly improves and more people return to work. But congestion in 2011 was still below pre-recession levels, the state reported.
Among trips that saw travel time improvements from 2009 to 2011, the evening commutes on eastbound state Route 520 from Seattle to Redmond, and from Bellevue to Redmond, experienced two of the three largest double-digit percentage decreases, according to state numbers Travel times dropped by 16 percent and 21 percent, respectively, over the two-year period.
The state also reported that in the six months immediately after the 520 Bridge toll started, routes that used SR 520 saw major reduction in the numbers of cars and faster travel times. However, there was an increase of vehicle traffic of up to 10 percent on I-90 and travel times were less reliable in that same time period, the state reported.
Another route that saw a significant improvement in travel time was southbound I-405 from Bellevue to Tukwila during the morning commute. This route saw an 18 percent reduction in travel time in 2011, following the completion in 2009 and 2010 of a series of WSDOT projects on the southern half of the I-405 corridor, including stages 1 and 2 of the I-405/I-5 to SR 169 project, which added lanes in both directions.
“This report plays an important role by presenting the data we use to analyze how our highways are performing,” said Daniela Bremmer, WSDOT director of strategic assessment. “It also serves as a tool that we and our local and federal partners rely on as we look ahead and collaborate to strategically invest our resources to improve how our highways perform.”
Peak time for Bellevue commuters in the morning (*numbers measured before the 520 toll):
- To Seattle via I-405/I-90/I-5 - 8:40 a.m.
- To Seattle via I-405/SR 520/I-5 7:50 a.m.
- To Tuwkila via I-405 7:40 a.m.
- To Redmond via I-405/SR 520 9:55 a.m.
Peak time for commuters in the evening:
- From Seattle to Bellevue via I-5/I-90/I-405 5:25 p.m.
- From Seattle to Bellevue via I-5/SR 520/I-405 5:30 p.m.
- From Bellevue to Everett via I-405/I-5 5:10 p.m.
- From Bellevue to Tukwila via I-405 4:50 p.m.
- From Bellevue to Seattle via I-405/I-90/I-5 5:30 p.m.
- From Bellevue to Seattle via I-405/SR 520/I-5 5:30 p.m.
- From Bellevue Issaquah via I-405/I-90 5:30 p.m.
- From Bellevue to Redmond via I-405/SR 520 5:35 p.m.
Highlights from the Congestion Report include:
• Data on vehicle miles traveled on all public roads show that each Washingtonian drove 50 fewer miles in 2011 than in 2009, and 88 fewer miles than in 2010.
• Traffic delay in 2011 cost drivers and businesses approximately $780 million, approximately 16 percent higher than the $674 million in 2009.
• High occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes continue to be more reliable than general purpose lanes and most carried more people in 2011 compared to 2010.
• WSDOT’s Incident Response program helped keep traffic moving and helped clear 44,492 incidents, providing drivers and businesses more than $72 million in economic benefits in 2011.To find out more about WSDOT accountability and view the 2012 Congestion Report, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Accountability/Graynotebook.