Houston is so used to the holding the dubious honor of having the most congested roadway in Texas, that frankly, it's a little surprising when another city takes the title. For years, the 610 Loop from I-10 to I-69 in Uptown has been the most jam-packed in the Lone Star State, but that's not longer the case in 2020.
I-35 in Austin, 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. That puts 610 and I-69 (59 for longtime locals) at No. 2 overall.
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.
Houston had six in the top 10 — the most of any city.
In total, the Greater Houston region has 36 roadways in the top 100. Combined, traffic caused local commuters and truck drivers to waste nearly 14 million gallons of fuel last year.
Other local roadways among the top 100 most congested roadways in Texas:
- IH 69/US 59 between IH 610 West and SH 288
- Eastex Freeway between IH 10/US 90 and SH 288
- IH 610 North between IH 45 North and Katy Freeway
- IH 45 between IH 10/US 90 and IH 610 South
- IH 10/US 90 between IH 45 North and IH 69/US 59
- Katy Freeway between IH 610 West and IH 45 North
- SH 288 between IH 45 South and IH 610 South
- Katy Freeway between N. Eldridge Parkway and SL 8 West
- IH 45 between SL 8 North and IH 610 North
- IH 45 between IH 610 North and IH 10/US 90
- Katy Freeway between SL 8 West and IH 610 West
- IH 610 between SH 288 and IH 45
- IH 45 between IH 610 South and SL 8 South
- IH 69/US 59 between IH 610 South and SL 8 South
- IH 610 West between IH 69/US 59 and SH 288
- N. IH 610 East between IH 45 and IH 10
- IH 10/US 90 between Grand Parkway and N. Eldridge Parkway
- Cypress Creek Parkway/FM 1960 between Tomball Parkway/SH 249 and IH 45 North
- SL 8 West between IH 10/US 90 and IH 69/US 59
- Westheimer Road between SH 6 and SL 8 West
- SH 288 between IH 610 South and SL 8 South
- FM 1960 (Cypress Creek Parkway) between SH 249 (Tomball Parkway) and US 290
- Westheimer Road between SL 8 West and IH 610 West
- UA 90 between SH 288 and IH 610 West
- IH 10/US 90 between IH 69/US 59 and IH 610 East
- Voss Road/Hillcroft Avenue between IH 10/US 90 and IH 69/US 59
- IH 610 between IH 10 and IH 45
- IH 45 between Lake Front Circle and Spring Cypress Road
- SH 6 between IH 10/US 90 and Westpark Tollway
- SL 8 North between W. Little York Road and IH 10/US 90
- SH 249 (Tomball Parkway) between SL 8 and IH 45
- Bellaire Boulevard between SL 8 West and IH 610 West
- IH 69/US 59 between IH 10 and Little York Road
- Main Street between US 59 (Southwest Freeway) and Old Spanish Trail/UA 90
- SH 146 between Red Bluff Road and League City Parkway/SH 96