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Seattle traffic worsens, but mass transit may be helping

A few bottlenecks make a big difference, especially for trucks

Joe Wolf

Seattle’s traffic is bad. No news there. But knowing the worst places can be a help. It’s also handy to know if they’re getting better or worse. Bad news. It’s getting worse. The good news is that data is now available that gets specific.

We love to complain about it, but most commutes are under an hour. Imagine what it’s like trying to drive an eighteen-wheeler through it for hour after hour. Those trucks are now more likely to be tracked. The American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) compiled the travel data from trucks passing through 250 bottlenecks around the country.

Good news! We’re not the worst! Sorry, Atlanta. Bad news. We have five of the top 21 bottlenecks. More bad news. It’s getting worse. Each one moved up in rank since last year. Here’s our representatives on the list.

  • #7 Auburn: SR 18 at SR 167 - Up from #17 last year
  • #10 Seattle: I-5 at I-90 - Up from #14
  • #16 Tacoma: I-5 at I-705/SR 16 - Up from #32
  • #18 Federal Way: SR 18 at I-5 - Up from #33
  • #21 Seattle: I-90 at I-405 - Up from #22

While it may be no surprise that I-90 and 520 create bottlenecks when they merge with I-5, and that they are getting worse, they aren’t moving up as quickly as the intersections dominated by trucking. It’s also a sign of our robust economy, and our position as a major shipping hub. It would be interesting to know how much of it is products shipping in and out for Amazon and Costco.

Mass transit may alleviate urban traffic, and may be one reason the Seattle-centered bottlenecks didn’t change position as much. There are fewer options for the things that move on trucks. Something else to keep in mind when you’re shopping for a house and have to commute.