Charles James, 46, is already running late for his appointment in Grandview, Texas, just 36.5 miles south of Fort Worth, where he is expected to pick up an order. That means he will also be late for his delivery.
While his 18-wheeler fills up at the Fuel City Truck Stop in Blue Mound, he quickly grabs a large drink and three packs of cigarettes from the convenience store. When asked about the delay, he points to the congestion on Interstate 35W.
“I’ve only lived in Texas since 2014. But throughout the years that I have been driving, I’ve come through here quite a bit. And, yes, traffic has increased tenfold since I’ve been driving,” James said, noting more construction and more people.
But James is not the only one idling on these freeways for hours each day.
Data from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute highlights 11 portions of roadway in Tarrant County as among the most congested in Texas. At the top of that list is North Freeway (I-35W and U.S. 287), between SH 183 and I-30. Every year, drivers are delayed by 2.7 million hours driving along that segment of highway.
The annual cost of this portion of I-35W congestion is nearly $71 million of wasted time and fuel, the study shows.
Other notable portions of roadways in Tarrant County on the list include northeast I-820, I-30 and State Highway 121.
David Schrank, senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, said this is the first data set released post-COVID-19 and shows “a mixed bag” when it comes to traffic levels. Some corridors’ numbers climbed back up rapidly to pre-pandemic levels while others continue to lag behind, he said.
“What we’re seeing is a combination of the effect of still having quite a few people again in 2021, working from home and changing their travel patterns,” Schrank said.
Tarrant County’s top 10 most congested roads
|2022 Rank||Road Segment||From||To|
|1||North Fwy / I-35W / US 287||SH 183||I-30|
|2||North Fwy / I-35W / US 287||US 81 / US 287||28th St. / SH 183|
|3||NE Loop 820 / I-820||North Fwy / I-35W||Baker Blvd / SH 183|
|4||N Loop 820 / Jim Wright Fwy / I-820||North Fwy / I-35W||Jacksboro Hwy / SH 199|
|5||I-35W||Alliance Gateway / SH 170||US 81 / US 287|
|6||Tom Landry Fwy / I-30||E Loop 820 / I-820||SH 360|
|7||E Loop 820 / I-820||Baker Blvd / SH 183||Tom Landry Fwy / I-30|
|8||SH 360||Airport Fwy / SH 183||Tom Landry Fwy / I-30|
|9||Airport Fwy / SH 121||SH 26||NE Loop 820 / I-820|
This includes increased traffic along arterial and smaller roads. Because people are not traveling as far, they are not using freeways as much as before, relying instead on smaller roads, Schrank said.
While freeways are considered lagging number-wise because of changing travel patterns, like increased work from home, the ever-growing population boom in the state means traffic could get worse.
Dallas-Fort Worth’s top 10 most congested roads
|2022 Rank||County||Road Segment||From||To|
|1||Dallas||Woodall Rodgers Fwy / SS 366||US 75||N. Beckley Ave|
|2||Tarrant||North Fwy / I-35W / US 287||SH 183||I-30|
|3||Dallas||I-345 / US 75 / I-45||US 75||SM Wright Fwy / US 175|
|4||Dallas||US 75||LBJ Fwy / I-635||Woodall Rodgers Fwy / SS 366|
|5||Dallas||E. R. L. Thornton Fwy / I-30 / US 67||Jefferson Viaduct||Buckner Blvd. / SL 12 E|
|6||Dallas||Stemmons Fwy / I-35E / US 77||John W. Carpenter / SH 183||Tom Landry Fwy / I-30|
|7||Tarrant||North Fwy / I-35W / US 287||US 81 / US 287||28th St. / SH 183|
|8||Dallas||Lyndon B. Johnson Fwy / IH 635||Stemmons Fwy / I-35E / US 77||US 75|
|9||Dallas||Lyndon B. Johnson Fwy / IH 635||US 75||Garland Ave / SH 78|
|10||Dallas||Lyndon B. Johnson Fwy / IH 635||Garland Ave / SH 78||US 80|
I-35W for example, which currently ranks sixth statewide, was No. 9 in 2021 and No. 16 in 2020.
“We are supposed to add 20 million more people in Texas in only the next five years,” Schrank said. “Even if 5 million of those work from home, the rest of those are going to need transportation. And that’s not just to go to school or work, but also for all the goods and services that they’re going to need that come along with them moving to Texas. So, yes, it means there will be more demand for transportation.”
Texas’ top 10 most congested roads
|2022 Rank||County||Road Segment||From||To|
|1||Harris||W. Loop Fwy/ I-610||Katy Fwy / I-10 / US 90||Southwest Fwy / I-69 / US 59|
|2||Dallas||Woodall Rodgers Fwy / SS 366||US 75||N. Beckley Ave|
|3||Travis||I-35||US 290N / SS 69||Ben White Blvd / SH 71|
|4||Harris||Eastex Fwy / I-69 / US 59||W. Loop Fwy / I-610||South Fwy / SH 288|
|5||Harris||Southwest Fwy / I-69 / US 59||W. Loop Fwy / I-610||South Fwy / SH 288|
|6||Tarrant||North Fwy / I-35W / US 287||SH 183||I-30|
|7||Dallas||I-345 / US 75 / I-45||US 75||SM Wright Fwy / US 175|
|8||Harris||N. Loop W. Fwy / I-610||North Fwy / I-45||Katy Fwy / I-10 / US 90|
|9||Dallas||US 75||LBJ Fwy / I-635||Woodall Rodgers Fwy / SS 366|
|10||Harris||Gulf Fwy / I-45||I-10 / US 90||S. Loop E. Fwy / I-610|
Solutions to the increasing road congestion will be multifaceted, Schrank said, and could require more pavement and technological advances.
$1.6 billion project
The Southeast Connector in Tarrant County is one of Texas’ largest investments to ease congestion
The $1.6 billion project will widen about 11 miles of highway through Fort Worth, Arlington, Forest Hill and Kennedale. That includes increasing Interstate 20, from I-820 to US 287, from eight to 10 lanes, and Interstate 820, from four to eight lanes.
Construction is expected to begin in spring 2023 and be completed in 2027.
“The two probably biggest things to consider with this right now are what role work from home will be playing going forward? We’ve seen what it can do, and what dent it can put in traffic congestion. How much can we carry that momentum forward?” he said. “And secondly, we’ve got to keep striving for new solutions, because of the growth that’s coming to Texas — we know it’s coming. And we have to be ready for it. So that we can keep Texans moving.”
As for James, the trucker, he urges travelers to pay attention to the roads.
“When it’s all said and done, at the end of the day, we all want to get home to our friends and family,” he said. “Let’s do it safely.”
Sandra Sadek is a Report for America corps member, covering growth for the Fort Worth Report. You can contact her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter at @ssadek19. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.