Is congestion “gone”?

As of late September 2020 — in other words, more than six months into the pandemic — we continue to enjoy far less congestion on Interstate 40 and other freeways than prior to March 1st.

Will the effective elimination of congestion continue “forever”? Unlikely — although our reduced traffic situation is likely to persist indefinitely.

The work-from-home model we have embraced as a metro area and as a nation will continue for a higher proportion of our regional workforce than most other areas, due to the nature of our economy.

With “travel demand management” (TDM) becoming effectively automatic due to sustained work-from-home — with the expectation that a significant portion of this will continue beyond a vaccine, treatment, effective herd immunity, etc. — we have the opportunity to gain higher, all-day benefits of our freeway system.

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In past years, RTA has highlighted the traffic congestion benefits of the dual dispersion of our market. First of all, the Raleigh and Durham city centers are 25 miles apart, which reduces congestion given multiple employment “hubs” or “nodes.” In addition, it certainly helps that our largest employment center, Research Triangle Park, is located between them, accessible via freeways from 5 directions.

The fact that our national through Interstates — I-85 and I-95 — do not conflict with our primary commuting patterns has also provided us with natural congestion advantages.

Our region’s continued willingness and ability to invest in its mobility future is one more massive advantage.  We have dedicated, locally-controlled transit taxes that are giving rise to 5 bus rapid transit lines, and we will open two new multimodal freeway links in just the next few years, including 540 Southern Wake and the I-885 connector.

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We have an opportunity and an obligation to combine the natural advantages of our location and layout with the revealed commuting advantage of the nature of our work and our ongoing transportation investments.

The implications of this newfound mobility horizon are profound, and positive, for more and better travel options, reduced congestion, and improved regional equity, if we are purposeful.

A primary focus for RTA into 2021 will be to help the region take advantage of this situation and leverage it into enhanced, sustainable multimodal mobility for our regional community.

I look forward to the ongoing conversation, ideas, and impact.

Let’s get moving,


Joe Milazzo II, PE
RTA Executive Director

RTA is the voice of the regional business community on transportation


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