1. Local

Stuck in Traffic

Local Greater Philadelphia/So. Jersey Traffic Nightmares

By

I-95 Entrance to I-476 in Delaware County

I-95 Entrance to I-476 in Delaware County

Photo by John Fischer
It's likely of little solace to anyone who commutes from Bucks County, the Main Line or South Jersey to know that, of the nation's top ten metropolitan areas, the Greater Philadelphia/South Jersey area is the least congested. In a study of United States counties less than 45% of area residents are reported to have a commute in excess of 30 minutes. 

It is, however, apparent to anyone who drives the region's highways at morning or evening rush hour that the situation is getting increasingly worse, not better. Each of the region's areas are notorious for areas of major daily congestion. In South Jersey, Routes 38 and 70 see major traffic at almost all hours of the day. I-295 from Burlington County to the interchange with Route 42 and I-76 has more than its share of accidents that back up traffic.

The Worst Roads for Congestion

No road in South Jersey faces more congestion or major accidents that Route 42 from Williamstown to Bellmawr and its connection with I-295 North and South and I-76 to Philadelphia.

In southeastern Pennsylvania no road is more notorious for its traffic and accidents than the Schuylkill Expressway along its entire route from the Pennsylvania Turnpike/Route 202 to the Walt Whitman Bridge. It's regional nickname as the "Sure Kill Crawl-way" tells it all. 

With the increase of businesses in the King of Prussia area, traffic on Route 202 has totally overburdened the capacity of the highway, necessitating a multi-year re-widening project. The relatively new Cross County Parkway (commonly known as the "Blue Route"), I-476 has seen traffic in excess of its projected handling capability since soon after its opening in 1992.

The region's major north-south highway, I-95 consistently sees morning southbound backups from Bucks County to Philadelphia and evening backups in the northbound lanes. A recently begun multi-year construction project near the Betsy Ross Bridge has already added 10-15 minutes to most commutes.

Major local roads such as Baltimore Pike in Delaware County, Lancaster Pike in Montgomery County and Street Road in Philadelphia are all seeing heavier traffic, particularly on the weekends when local traffic is at its heaviest.

Why Does a Good Public Transportation System Not Help?

One might justifiably wonder why, with a better than average regional public transportation system in Philadelphia, the Pennsylvania suburbs and South Jersey, these problems continue to get worse each passing day.

There are numerous factors which appear to be compounding and accelerating the region's traffic congestion problems.

  • Increasing migration of the area's population to the Pennsylvania suburbs and South Jersey has resulted in longer commutes for those who work in Center City Philadelphia.
  • Major business centers have developed in several of the region's suburban areas, such as King of Prussia, Mt. Laurel, NJ, the Route 202 corridor, and points south near Wilmington. Many commuters are traveling not only from the suburbs to Center City but from one extreme area of the region to the other, often in excess of 40 miles.
  • The region's highways are rapidly beginning to show their age. This results in two problems: the need for increased maintenance of the existing structure, and also the need for major re-widening projects. Both problems result in lane closures and traffic delays during construction. Many other area roads cannot be widened, yet are constantly being asked to handle an increased load of traffic.

Little Hope in Sight

Aside from some small improvements as a result of the scheduled construction, there appears to be little hope for a significant change for the better in the region's traffic situation, at least for the foreseeable future. The region sees little use of car or van pools. Gas prices, while higher, have not increased to levels that appear to have affected anyone's driving patterns. While many areas of the county have seen an increase in telecommuting and flex-time, many local businesses are slow to change their ways of doing business.

The Internet has made available to everyone up-to-the-minute reports on road construction and regional traffic delays. We invite you to check out our Guide to Regional Traffic Reports for the most up-to-date information.

  1. About.com
  2. Local
  3. Philadelphia

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.