Surprise, surprise — to no one who’s traveled the Seattle area on any of its various modes of transportation: Seattle’s traffic congestion is the fourth-worst in North America for the first three months of 2012.
According to the recently released Tom-Tom traffic-data company’s report, Seattle moved from 12th last year, with drivers now spending an extra 35 minutes in their cars for every hour of their commute — that’s an average 25 percent more time in traffic (and 48 percent longer during the morning rush hour than in free-flowing traffic, and 70 percent longer in the afternoon).
This is the fastest-growing traffic situation of all major metropolitan areas, the study said. Only Los Angeles, Vancouver, B.C., and Miami ranked higher.
Well, we don’t need a GPS manufacturer to tell us this. Traffic through the Seattle corridor typically backs up at mid- to north Boeing Field from the south and nearly Northgate from the north as it tries to maneuver its way through the hourglass of roadway as it approaches downtown from each direction.
The on-ramps to our express lanes also get backed up from drivers trying to avoid the bottleneck under the convention center.
Traffic through downtown had gotten to the point that, to avoid busloads of commuters sitting on clogged streets, the main thoroughfare of Third Avenue was made transit-only in 2004 for the morning and afternoon rush hours. Motorists are allowed to travel one block on Third Avenue before having to turn off to an adjacent street.
It didn’t help matters on the highways when the state started tolling the state Route 520 bridge across Lake Washington and drivers took to the toll-free Interstate 90 instead, causing backups there.
Many of the alternate routes are now obstructed by ongoing road projects — like the Alaskan Way Viaduct project, the “Mercer Mess” and the numerous other, smaller-scale projects taking place — pushing traffic onto the second and third tiers of alternative routes.
Add to this the complication of driving in snow, which Seattle experienced for two days in January, and it’s a wonder why the city didn’t rise to the top of this top-10 list.
And now it’s summer — when traffic volumes usually drop as most people take off for vacations — and the traffic hasn’t abated.
Imagine if gas prices were lower, the economy were better, our sports teams were playing at playoff caliber and there were even more drivers on the road.
If we didn’t spend so much time sitting in traffic, we wouldn’t notice the idiosyncrasies that have made Seattle drivers infamous. But that’s another rant for the next time we’re stuck in traffic…maybe tomorrow.