DOT report shows traffic congestion declined last year

December 3, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 6 a.m. Dec. 3, 2009

On a typical weekday commute between Issaquah and Bellevue in 2006, drivers faced traffic snarls on interstates 90 and 405 — a 67 percent chance of traffic moving slower than 35 mph, in fact. Drivers who made the same commute last year, however, had only a 32 percent chance of traffic plodding along at less than 35 mph.

Officials released the information Wednesday in the state Department of Transportation’s annual traffic congestion report.

Department of Transportation officials attributed reduced congestion throughout the region last year to higher fuel prices, the recession and the completion of several congestion-relief projects on state highways. Read the complete report here.

Average peak travel times improved on 30 of the surveyed high-demand commute routes in central Puget Sound from 2006 to 2008, and, because of improvements to travel times, Puget Sound-area commuters shaved between one and 16 minutes from their daily drives last year, the report states.

But the report lacks important data for Issaquah commuters. Information about the Issaquah-to-Seattle morning and evening commutes was not included in the report because construction lane shifts on westbound I-90 between I-405 and I-5 affected the quality of data.

Although the DOT officials lacked sufficient data for the full year, the data available shows travel times and vehicle miles traveled on the Issaquah-to-Seattle routes dropped slightly — a trend that matches the rest of the region.

Statewide, drivers spent, on average, about one hour less in congestion last year than they had in 2006. The hours drivers lost, per capita, due to highway delays declined by 16 percent during the same period.

Officials also recorded a drop in the collisions last year, compared to previous years. In King County, fatal and serious-injury collisions declined more than 20 percent from 2006. The total number of all collision types on state highways in the county decreased by 11.4 percent last year from 2006 levels.

DOT officials said the decline in accident-related traffic problems, known as non-recurrent congestions, likely contributed to the overall improvement of travel times on Puget Sound-area highways.

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