Wisconsin is just like all the other states across the country when it comes to traffic congestion. We have it, and we must deal with it just about every day on our highways and metropolitan area roads. Of course, commuters and travelers might become aggravated at delays. But the more serious issue is when an accident happens. It’s far more likely that what might have been a fender bender-type collision will turn into a car accident involving multiple vehicles because of congested roads.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has a division known as the Federal Highway Administration. This organization is focusing many high-priority efforts to reduce congestion. Demand for highway travel by Americans, the Administration says, is increasing as the population grows. Most will agree that construction of new highway capacity, or increasing the existing size of metropolitan area roads, isn’t keeping up. In 2011, congestion in 498 areas of the country caused city-dwellers to travel 5.5 billion hours more, and to buy an extra 2.9 billion gallons of gas than they would otherwise have done. This makes a congestion cost of $121 billion as of 2011. Freight volume is expected to nearly double by 2020. Up until now, heavy congestion issues have been mostly attributed to big cities. New information indicates that it’s spreading into small cities and rural areas too.

Some solutions being worked on by the FHWA include traffic incident management, real-time traveler information, traffic signal timing and better management of work zones. Combining public safety and traffic management functions through public agencies cooperating to more quickly handle crashes and stalled vehicles may reduce dangerous congestion. The Administration is encouraging review of traffic signals in cities to effectively time them to traffic patterns. This can reduce unnecessary delays and improve travel efficiency. Weather, construction, special events and accidents can increase safety risks. Travel information provided to drivers in real time allows them to anticipate problems and act to choose a better route.

These and other ideas and programs are part of the FHWA’s Congestion Reduction Toolbox. This resource is designed to help communities improve safety as related to congestion through strategies utilizing technology and innovation – a goal that might improve everyone’s daily travels.

Source: U.S. Dept. of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, “Focus on Congestion Relief” accessed Feb. 19, 2015