Tampa’s 'malfunction junction' ranked among worst freight bottlenecks in the country

The study used data from over one million freight trucks.

click to enlarge Tampa’s 'malfunction junction' ranked among worst freight bottlenecks in the country
Photo via Ben Ostrowsky [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
In its List of Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks, the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI) ranked Tampa’s "malfunction junction," also known as the I-4/I-274 interchange, the 69th worst freight bottleneck in the U.S.

The study, released on Feb. 9, uses GPS data from over one million freight trucks to “convert its truck GPS dataset into an ongoing truck bottleneck analysis that is used to quantify the impact of traffic congestion on truck-borne freight at over 300 specific locations.” The study used data from peak and off peak traffic hours, as well as the speed of trucks moving through the interchange.

ATRI is a nonprofit research organization in the trucking industry that analyzes the role of freight transportation in maintaining a safe, secure and efficient system.

The report says trucks moving through Tampa's troubled interchange averaged a speed of 41.6 mph, a peak speed of 33.9 mph and a non-peak speed of 45.2 mph. The study also analyzed the effects of the pandemic on traffic congestion, and I-4 at I-275 experienced a change of peak average speed of 21.1% from 2019 to 2021.

By comparison, the study neamed I-95 at SR-4 in Fort Lee, New Jersey the worst truck bottleneck in America. ATRI found that the average speed in this location was 30.1 mph, a peak average speed of 22.4 mph, a non-peak average speed of 33.4 mph and a change of peak average speed of 0.1% in the last three years.

Following Fort Lee was Cincinnati’s I-71 at I-75 and Houston’s I-45 at I-69/US 59.

According to Chris Spear, president and CEO of the American Trucking Associations the goal of the list is to create a “roadmap for federal and state administrators responsible for prioritizing infrastructure investments throughout the country. Every year, ATRI’s list highlights the dire needs for modernizing and improving our roads and bridges.”

But upgrades in infrastructure don’t always bring benefits to the community, and there is no better example than Tampa’s own I-275 expansion.

At Tuesday's Hillsborough's Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) Board Meeting, community members and officials expressed concerns about the construction and called for a moratorium on the project. Residents say construction is so loud in some locations that it's shaking people's houses. At the meeting, some said air pollution is affecting home infrastructures and the giant physical separations are creating racial inequity.

Nonetheless, ATRI states that its efforts aim to “empower decision-making in both the private and public sectors by helping stakeholders better understand the severity of congestion and mobility constraints on the U.S. highway transportation system.”

“We have seen, most recently in Pittsburgh, that the cost of doing nothing could also cost lives. It’s time to fund these projects and get our supply chains moving again,” Spear said.

About The Author

Sofía García Vargas

Sofía García Vargas, born in Colombia, South America and raised in Costa Rica, Central America, is a journalism student at the University of South Florida and Editor-in-Chief of The Crow’s Nest, USF St. Petersburg’s student newspaper. Her passions range from art and music to sports and food. She dreams of becoming...
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