The 9 worst traffic backups in the Tri-State, making us the 45th worst metro area in the country

Northern Kentucky I-275 stretch might be the champ
Posted at 7:00 AM, May 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-26 15:58:22-04

CINCINNATI -- When Nick Dennis of Burlington, Kentucky, announced via Facebook that he accepted a new job, he seemed just as excited to announce his much-shorter commute.

“I am looking forward to getting started on this new path … (And 4 min from my house means NO MORE TRAFFIC POSTS)!,” he wrote. 

Dennis' new commute shortens his drive by about 16 miles each way, which he estimates will save him up to two hours each day. Dennis is not alone in his disdain for Tri-State traffic.

The Tri-State is the 45th most congested urban area in the U.S., according to the most recent report of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which has been documenting mobility statistics since the 1980s. The study shows that the average auto commuter wastes 41 hours a year sitting in traffic -- an entire work week.

Of course, some roads are more congested than others. Here’s a list of the worst nine based on travel time index (TTI) data from the OKI Regional Council of Governments. The travel time index measures excess travel time based on a comparison to traveling the same roadway at the proper speed limit without any traffic.

I-275 W from KY-237/Exit 7 to Petersburg Road/Exit 11

While morning travel on this stretch of roadway was documented speeding along at 63 mph, slightly above the road’s posted limit, afternoon traffic nearly grinds to a halt. Traffic slows to just 11 mph. The four-mile stretch earned a TTI of 5.36 meaning it takes drivers more than five times as long to drive it during the afternoon rush than it would take if driven at the 60-mph speed limit.

I-75 S from U.S.-52/Hopple Street/Exit 3 to the I-71 merge

Thanks to a multitude of businesses and schools in the area, as well drivers returning to Northern Kentucky after a day of working farther north, this section of I-75 South turns to a near parking lot for the evening drive. Speeds plunge to as low as 9 mph in some sections and drivers can count on a TTI of 4.94 – nearly five times the amount of time it would take to drive the road alone.

I-275 S from the Indiana-Ohio border to U.S.-50/Exit 16

Traffic heading toward Lawrenceburg from the border moves slow in the morning and even slower in the evening rush. The short stretch -- just 2.18 miles -- earned a TTI of 1.77 in the morning with traffic slowing to 34 mph. The evening drive slows to half that speed meaning it takes nearly four times as long to drive it.

I-71S from OH-3/William Howard Taft Road/Exit 3 to I-75/Exit 1

The drive from I-71 South to the I-75 split moves quickly in the morning, just slightly less than the speed limit, but the evening drive is much slower, taking more than three times as long. It takes drivers more than 11 minutes to drive the 2.87 miles.

I-71 N from Dana Avenue/Exit 5 to Ridge Avenue/Exit 8

Drivers heading toward Norwood in the evening require some patience to drive the 2.37 miles, which takes just over eight minutes for a TTI of 3.28. This three-mile stretch is just one of the sections of I-71 that make Dennis’ drive so slow.

“Spending two hours a day in the car to travel less than 22 miles each way is annoying,” he said.

I-75N from Mitchell Avenue/Exit 6 to Towne Street/Exit 8

Drivers traveling north through the St. Bernard area during the evening commute must slow to just 17 mph for the 2.18-mile corridor. The road earns a TTI of 3.2 for the evening commute, and a faster 1.35 for the morning ride.

Red Bank Road from I-71 ramps to Duck Creek Road

Traffic entering Red Bank Road from I-71 creates a significant, albeit short, bottleneck. Vehicles slow to just 11 mph for the half-mile to Duck Creek Road, after which speeds slowly pick up.

I-275 S from I-71/Exit 49 to U.S.-22/OH-3/Exit 50

What is a quick trip without traffic takes nearly three times as long during the evening rush. Though the exits are less than a mile apart, the merging of traffic slows drivers to just 22 mph, earning the corridor a TTI of 2.72.

I-75/71 N from Exit 185 to KY-1072/Kyles Lane/Exit 189

Northern Kentucky commuters or those who just listen to the morning traffic report are no strangers to the slowdown that comes morning and evening on I-75 N between the exit to I-275 and Kyles Lane. While the morning delays clock in with a TTI of 2.3, making it one of the worst congestion spots during the morning hours, the evening drive is slightly slower with a TTI of 2.64. Drivers slow to as low as 21 mph as they driver through the Kenton County stretch.

Dennis travels through this section as well. 

I-275 E from U.S. 42/Exit 146 to I-71/Exit 49

This one should sound familiar. I-275 near the I-71 exit causes delays in both directions. For traffic headed east, congestion causes the 2.85 miles to take more than eight minutes to travel with top speeds averaging just 24 mph.

While traffic studies are conducted by the Congestion Management Network every four years, according to Adam Evans, senior planner for OKI, the congestion leaders tend to stay the same year after year. Because the region is geographically limited to few corridors to travel, especially when needing to cross the river, delays are bound to happen, he said.

His advice: “Drive slow, pay attention and give yourself plenty of time.”

Transportation planners have a term for this cushion: buffer index. The buffer index measures the variability of travel time along a corridor. OKI offers a map to calculate the needed buffer time here.