Dealing with high traffic volume and congestion on highways is a constant battle, whether you’re making your morning commute or embarking on a holiday road trip. 47% of Americans are expected to hit the roads this holiday season, but where will travelers encounter the most highway congestion en route to their yuletide gatherings?
Using highway statistics data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), we mapped out the cities in every U.S. region with the busiest highways based on average annual daily traffic (AADT) or the average daily vehicle trips on a segment of highway during a year-long interval. We also found the busiest interstates in the U.S., overall, as well as the busiest months to travel on highways.
Navigating the Bustle of The Northeast
Navigating the northeastern United States by car means you’re likely familiar with the bustle of its highways. At the heart of this region’s vehicular pulse are Boston and New York City, which lead the pack with 89,953 and 88,585 average daily vehicle trips, respectively.
Not far behind, Philadelphia claims the fifth spot with an impressive 75,646 average daily vehicle trips. The City of Brotherly Love stands out not just for its high traffic volume, but also for its rapidly growing congestion. From 2020 to 2021, Philly’s annual average daily traffic (AADT) surged by 22%, marking it as one of the top 20 cities where traffic congestion has notably increased.
Home to a multitude of commuter routes into NYC, Connecticut also boasts five out of the top 10 cities with the busiest highways in the Northeast –– Bridgeport–Stamford (#3), Hartford (#7), Danbury (#9), and Waterbury (#10).
The Southern Surge: Highways Leading the Traffic Charge
Down South, the dance of daily commutes and long-haul drives plays out on some of the busiest roadways in the nation.
Miami, FL, sits at the top of the South’s list and takes the fifth spot in the country, with an average of 134,128 vehicle trips daily. This sun-soaked city isn’t just a vacation destination but a hub of constant movement, with I-95 carving its way through the landscape as the eighth busiest highway segment in the United States.
Not to be outdone, Atlanta is a close second in the Southern ranks and 14th nationwide, with 123,536 average daily vehicle trips. The city’s arteries, I-75 and I-85, are notorious for their congestion, with I-75 in Atlanta ranking second on the Federal Highway Administration’s list of the busiest U.S. highways.
Nestled in northern Virginia, Fredericksburg takes the third place in the Southern traffic tally with 120,700 average daily vehicle trips, serving as a critical waypoint on I-95 towards the nation’s capital, Washington D.C.
Meanwhile, The Lone Star State, with its vast expanse and booming metropolitan areas, sees a substantial share of highway traffic. Texas is home to half of the top 10 busiest highways in the South –– Conroe–The Woodlands (#5), Houston (#7), Dallas–Fort Worth (#8), San Antonio (#9), and Denton–Lewisville (#10).
Midwest Movement: Traffic Highs on the Heartland’s Highways
The Midwest, America’s crossroads, is home to some of the most sprawling cities and vital transportation links in the country.
Chicago is the region’s champion of traffic volume with 100,428 average daily vehicle trips. It not only claims the top spot in the Midwest but also makes a national mark with the I-90 corridor around the city, notorious enough to be ranked number 10 on the FHWA’s list of the busiest U.S. highways.
Kenosha, WI, emerges somewhat surprisingly as the second busiest hub of highway travel in the Midwest with 98,134 average daily vehicle trips. It’s not only a key thoroughfare for drivers traveling from Chicago to Milwaukee, but also one of the top 20 cities in the nation experiencing a surge in traffic volume. From 2020 to 2021, Kenosha witnessed a significant 24% growth in its annual average daily traffic (AADT), signaling a sharp increase in local and through traffic.
Western Gridlock: The Pinnacle of Pacific Highway Traffic
Los Angeles is a city that’s become synonymous with traffic. With the busiest highways not only in the West but across the entire country, LA’s sprawling roadways see an astonishing average of 195,145 vehicle trips per day.
The I-5, which slices through the Los Angeles metro area, wears the crown as the busiest highway in the United States, witnessing over half a million vehicle trips daily. In the City of Angels, the I-5 is the lifeblood of regional commerce and a concrete symbol of LA’s ceaseless activity.
Riverside and Concord claim the second and third spots in the West, reflecting the broader traffic trends of California’s urban centers. These cities, though smaller than LA, are integral parts of the state’s transportation network, accommodating a significant volume of daily vehicle trips –– 149,101 and 139,294, respectively.
The Busiest Highways in America
California’s iconic freeways are not just a staple of pop culture; they are also some of the most heavily trafficked in the United States. According to the Federal Highway Administration, the Golden State dominates the list of the nation’s busiest highways, with 11 locations making the top 20.
This isn’t a surprise to those who navigate the state’s expansive urban landscapes daily. The notorious I-5, both in the Los Angeles metro area and in Mission Viejo, along with I-405 in Los Angeles, are often more parking lots than highways, filled with a seemingly endless stream of cars at all hours.
Conventional wisdom might suggest that the holiday seasons of November and December would see America’s highways at their busiest due to travel for December and New Year’s Eve celebrations.
However, the data tells a different story: July and August are actually the champions of congestion. These peak summer months beat out the traditional holiday season, claiming the first and second spots for the busiest times to travel.
On America’s busiest highways, it’s clear that the wheels of progress never stop turning. The constant ebb and flow of traffic across regional lines and through metropolitan hubs is a clear indicator of our nation’s pulse.
For small businesses relying on fleet vehicles, this pulse can be the difference between timely service and costly delays.
Coast understands that traffic patterns are more than just numbers; they reflect the real-world challenges fleet drivers face every day. With tools to monitor fuel consumption, track expenses, and optimize route efficiency, we help businesses stay ahead of the traffic and on top of their game.
Don’t let gridlock slow down your success. Get started with Coast today and steer your fleet towards smoother operations and better bottom lines.
Using highway statistics series data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), we analyzed the annual average daily traffic (AADT) on highways within nearly 300 metropolitan statistical areas with populations exceeding 100,000 to pinpoint the metro areas with the most congested highways in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. The AADT represents the number of vehicle trips on average each day within the study and serves as a reliable indicator of roadway congestion.
The FHWA defines AADT as the average number of vehicles passing a specific point on a roadway every day over a year, offering a balanced daily mean. This rich dataset enabled us to identify not only the busiest metropolitan areas but also the busiest months for highway travel and the most heavily trafficked interstate segments across the country.