WSDOT report: Congestion growing, roads deteriorating due to population boom

KING COUNTY, Wash. – The Washington State Department of Transportation recently released its own report card and it shows what many probably know already – traffic congestion is getting worse.

The report also shows some of our infrastructure is deteriorating faster because of our exploding population and the additional vehicles that are on our roadways. The report also says between 2014 and 2016 congestion has grown by more than 20 percent.

“There’s just no if’s and’s or but’s about it,” said Adam Gehrke from Q13 News This Morning. “It’s happening.”

Gehrke sees what many commuters see every day -- a commute that’s starting earlier and lasting longer.

“It’s stretching out further where we see backups into Arlington, Smokey Point we didn’t see that 5 to 10 years ago,” said Gehrke.

WSDOT says newcomers to the region are adding to the congestion woes – and drivers are piling onto freeways that in some places are old and crumbling.

“There’s still a lot of very old concrete pavement,” said WSDOT’s Mark Leth. “It’s beyond what is expected to be its lifecycle originally.”

The Gray Notebook says between 2014 and 2016 less people were driving alone, and there was a drop of those riding in carpools. But more and more, commuters are opting for mass transit and ferries. And our growing population increased the total number of miles driven by nearly 5 percent statewide.

The report also says in 2014 congestion is stealing our free time, forcing us to spend more than 32 million accumulated hours stuck in backups. It also says congestion has an impact on commerce and productivity, costing an estimated  $834 million.

“We’re a booming area right now,” said Leth. “People are moving here and we only have so much space for those vehicles to move around.”

But WSDOT says tolling is helping to relieve congestion in some areas – the state saw a 24 percent usage increase from 2015 to 2016.

“They’re still providing a significant advantage over the other lanes and in large part the other lanes are moving better than they were pre-tolling on 405,” said Leth. “But the growth continues and it’s introduced even more traffic onto that facility."

Some construction projects have been making improvements on rough patches along I-5 – but with a more than $400 million backlog, some of the over-used highways are likely to get into even worse shape.

“We have seen infrastructure in need of help assistance for, I would say, decades at this point,” said Gehrke.