Approximately half of all U.S. interstate roads are at 70% traffic capacity. Traffic congestion is more than just an unfortunate circumstance. Increased traffic can also increase wear and tear on the roads as well as threaten lives (a third of all U.S. vehicle fatalities involve poor road quality).
For those unfamiliar with traffic engineering and civil engineering management, the solution to the problem may seem simple enough: just widen the roads. However, as it turns out, the more roads there are the more people there are driving on them.
That is, wider roads simply make traffic congestion worse. But why?
Transportation infrastructure and the peak hour problem
One of the main problems faced by civil engineering management when it comes to transportation planning is that most Americans work for a living during the same hours. This increases traffic congestion on the roads along the same periods of time.
To reduce the number of drivers on highways at these peak hours, the U.S. would have to make significant changes to its work hours. Or peak hour tolls would need to be introduced. However, both of these potential solutions are problematic.
First, the nation would be unable to make significant changes to its work hours without affecting the economy. Second, peak hour tolls would benefit the wealthy and punish less wealthy drivers. What’s more, American drivers would see the tolls as another tax and may come to resent the tolling system.
Why bigger roads aren’t practical
Unfortunately, the solution for traffic congestion isn’t in the size of the roads. Roadway design and traffic engineering of this extreme size across the U.S. would be expensive overall. Additionally, the creation of more road space without significantly impact the environment.
That being said, the size of the roads would only increase the number of drivers who choose to take them. An influx of the number of drivers means greater traffic congestion. Therefore, while the expansion of roads in some areas may be beneficial, overall the change in the size of American roads wouldn’t positively impact traffic.
So how do we solve traffic congestion? In truth, traffic congestion is inevitable. However, using structural design and proper civil engineering management, civil engineer services may be able to create ways to reduce the intensity of traffic congestion in the near future.