How Nightmare Traffic in These Cities Costs Drivers Trillions of Dollars

We live in some seriously polarizing times. But if there are two things we can agree on it’s that time is money, and no one likes being stuck in traffic. But until now, you might have never known just how intertwined the two are.

Every year, commuters waste days stuck in traffic. On top of lost wages for many, there’s more to it than that. With millions of cars sitting in traffic every day, they’re burning incredible amounts of fuel and releasing tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. Stop-and-go traffic wreaks havoc on cars, too, leading to expensive maintenance repairs. On top of all that, having traffic constantly on our country’s busiest roadways makes it a nightmare for municipalities to repair and maintain them.

That’s what makes this report from Inrix, an infrastructure consulting firm, so eye-opening. Analyzing data from America’s 25 busiest cities, it located the most congested stretches of roads in America (called hot spots), how many drivers they affect, and how much money these brutal traffic snarls will cost each city over the next decade. Added up across America, our crumbling infrastructure and the traffic on it will cost us an estimated $2.2 trillion by 2026. Read on to see how much these issues will cost you and your city.

10. Boston

Boston in the fall

Boston’s congestion could cost the city $18.9 billion by 2026. | SeanPavonePhoto/iStock/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $18.9 billion

Boston is one of the largest cities in the country. It also has roads that were laid out centuries ago. And with millions of people trying to get to colleges, sporting events, and countless corporate headquarters every day, its highways are usually backed up at all hours. With 4,158 hot spots, Beantown’s traffic directly affected 2,429,229 people in 2016, with the worst stretch being eastbound on the Massachusetts Turnpike from the Boston U Bridge to Oak Street. If its infrastructure isn’t improved, this type of congestion could cost the city $18.9 billion by 2026.

9. Miami

Miami condos

There are 6,596 hot spots in Miami. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $19.1 billion

Even without the extreme weather that has plagued it recently, Miami is a tough city to get around in. The city’s 6,596 hot spots affect 2,449,631 people a year, with the biggest culprit being at Exit 12A to US-1 on Interstate 95 North. This sea-level city already has a lot of infrastructure issues on its plate, but even if it maintains the status quo for the next 10 years, it could cost the city and its residents $19.1 billion.

8. Houston

A car is stuck in water after Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey definitely complicated the situation. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $23.8 billion

Houston has a lot on its plate right now. But even before Hurricane Harvey, America’s fourth-largest city was a nightmare to navigate on an average day. About 3,058,004 people are affected by its awful traffic, which is usually caused by its 4,417 hot spots. The biggest bottleneck is between Exit 46A to Exit 63 on Interstate 45 South. On top of everything else right now, Houston’s infrastructure could cost its residents $23.8 billion by 2026.

7. San Francisco

San Francisco panorama

San Francisco’s economic boom has caused problems. | kropic/iStock

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $26.9 billion

Few cities have experienced an economic boom in the 2010s quite like the San Francisco area. But with the explosion of tech jobs came a very real housing crisis and an overworked infrastructure that wasn’t built to handle the added traffic. San Francisco has 2,587 traffic hot spots, with the worst being on Interstate 80 West at Emeryville to CA-4. A full 3,458,305 people end up being affected by this traffic. If the area can’t solve its infrastructure problems, it could cost residents $26.9 billion by 2026.

6. Chicago

Chicago

The infrastructure problems could cost $28.2 billion by 2026. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $28.2 billion

The largest city in the Midwest, Chicago is both a vital hub for air travel as well as a crossroads for several major interstates. And its roads are busy around the clock. The Windy City has 7,719 traffic hot spots, with the biggest offender being the stretch of Interstate 90 West between Exits 81A to 56B. Despite several progressive moves to alleviate traffic, if the city can’t update its pothole-riddled infrastructure soon, it could cost drivers $28.2 billion by 2026.

5. Dallas

Dallas

Dallas has 6,720 hot spots. | Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $28.3 billion

As the saying goes, everything — even the traffic — is bigger in Texas. The Inrix study found 3,644,525 people are affected by traffic stemming from Dallas’ 6,720 hot spots. The worst one is the stretch between Exits 451 to 466 on Interstate 20 West. If the city can’t find a way to alleviate this congestion, it could cost drivers $28.3 billion over the next decade.

4. Atlanta

Atlanta

Atlanta is known for its traffic. | Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $28.9 billion

Believe it or not, Atlanta’s sprawling metropolitan area is roughly the same size as the state of Massachusetts. So as you can imagine, that means its infrastructure is pretty heavily burdened. An incredible 3,714,123 people are directly affected by its awful traffic. Of the city’s 8,554 traffic hot spots, Interstate 285 South at Interstate 20 to Route 23 stands out as the worst. Traffic may be a way of life down there, but if things don’t change soon it could end up costing residents $28.9 billion by 2026.

3. Washington, D.C.

official traffic in D.C.

There’s gridlock in Washington. | Patrick Smith/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $29.2 billion

In more ways than one, Washington, D.C., is synonymous with gridlock. Just hearing the words “the Beltway” will strike fear into the hearts of drivers all along the Eastern Seaboard. D.C. has 6,097 particularly heinous traffic hot spots, with the worst being at Exit 133A to Fairfax County Parkway on I-95 South. On top of all of the money problems that plague the nation’s capital, this gridlock could cost drivers an estimated $29.2 billion over the next decade.

2. New York City

Times Square in New York City

The problems could cost $63.9 billion by 2026. | AndreyKrav/iStock/Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $63.9 billion

When most people think New York City, they think gridlock, and they aren’t wrong. The Big Apple’s crumbling infrastructure is almost constantly jammed, regardless of whether it’s a highway or a surface street. There are an astonishing 13,608 hot spots that regularly bottleneck traffic there, with the worst being Exit 28A on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. When stuck there, drivers have a great view of the Brooklyn Bridge, but that’s the only nice thing we can say about it. New York’s awful traffic affects 8,215,036 people. If the city can’t find ways to alleviate this, it could cost $63.9 billion by 2026.

1. Los Angeles

110 freeway in Los Angeles

LA and traffic are synonymous. | Getty Images

  • Estimated cost of congestion by 2026: $90.9 billion

If New York is a relatively small geographical area that’s addled with gridlock, then Los Angeles is an endless sprawl with traffic that’s even worse. An incredible 11,692,591 people are affected by traffic in the greater LA area, caused by 10,385 particularly awful hot spots. Unsurprisingly, the main culprit is Interstate 405 North, specifically at Exit 43 to Exit 21. If nothing changes to its infrastructure, this gridlock could cost drivers $90.9 billion over the next decade.

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