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Austin pulls ahead with No. 1 most congested roadway in Texas

Austin pulls ahead with No. 1 most congested roadway in Texas

Traffic jam I-35 Austin
The swath of I-35 through downtown Austin is the most congested roadway in Texas. Photo by Larry D. Moore/Wikimedia Commons

Even with kids learning remotely and most people working from home, it's still possible to pull onto I-35 in the middle of the afternoon and be met with congestion. 

It should come as little surprise then that I-35, particularly the stretch from 290 North to 71/Ben White Boulevard that cuts by downtown, has been named the most congested roadway in the entire state of Texas. This is one spot up from 2019 when it was named the state's second most congested roadway.

In its annual Texas' Most Congested Roadways report, released December 1, Texas A&M Transportation Institute analyzed 1,800 sections of roadway, covering almost 10,000 miles in areas ranging from the wilds of West Texas to highly populated neighborhoods inside major cities. It then examined congestion by the number of extra hours of travel time (aka "delays") for commuters, how much fuel is wasted sitting in traffic, and how costly those delays actually are to the economy. 

It's also important to note that this report reflects data from 2019, so any commute changes caused by the pandemic won't show up until next year's report, which TAMU Transportation Institute expects to look very different. 

According to TAMU, more than 173,000 vehicles travel the downtown stretch of I-35 daily, adding an average of 56 minutes to a commute during peak travel times. 

Drivers who use the highway between midnight and 5 am are more likely to hit top speeds of 60 mph. Around 6 am, travel speeds begin to drop, with the lowest speeds happening between 3:30 pm and 6:15 pm, when averages hover between 27 mph and 34 mph. All this congestion comes with an annual cost of $288,349,730, which includes lost work time and freight delays, among other things.

Interestingly, those heading northbound on I-35 have it slightly better than those traveling southbound. There are times, especially in the early afternoon, when commuters heading north can hit average speeds 10 miles per hour higher than their southbound counterparts. 

Though Austin's stretch of I-35 was first on the most congested list, Houston had six in the top 10 — the most of any city — while Dallas had three.

In total, the Austin-Round Rock region has 15 streets in the top 100. Combined, traffic caused local commuters and truck drivers to waste nearly 31 million gallons of fuel last year. 

Other local roadways among the top 100 most congested roadways in Texas:

  • I-35 between Ben White Boulevard and Slaughter Lane (12th)
  • Mopac between 183 and Capital of Texas Highway (20th)
  • I-35 between RM 1431 and Louis Henna Boulevard (35th)
  • US 290/71 between RM 1826 and Mopac (43rd)
  • I-35 between Slaughter and SH 45 (45th)
  • South Lamar Boulevard between Cesar Chavez Street and 290 (55th)
  • Cesar Chavez Street between Mopac and I-35 (61st)
  • South Capital of Texas Highway between RM 2244 and Ben White (67th)
  • 183 between 620 and Mopac (69th)
  • I-35 between Parmer Lane and 290 (70th)
  • 183 between I-35 and Ben White (78th)
  • North Capital of Texas Highway between 183 and 2222 (86th)
  • North Lamar Boulevard between Cesar Chavez and 45th Street (97th)
  • Capital of Texas Highway between 2222 and 2224 (98th)