After bottoming out in the second quarter, traffic congestion across the country is on the rise amid signs of economic recovery, new stimulus-funded highway construction projects and lower fuel prices
, according to a mid-year National Traffic Scorecard special report by Inrix.

Inrix, which provides traffic and navigation services in North America, found that 64 of the top 100 most populated cities in the U.S. had increased traffic congestion levels at the beginning of this year. The company also said its freight corridor analysis showed the need for a national freight strategy.

"Traffic congestion decreased over the past 18 months and hit bottom in the second quarter of 2009," said Bryan Mistele, INRIX president and CEO. "Now, our nation's roadways are starting to jam up again. Traffic is a great indicator of the pulse of the economy, and as the economy improves, we expect gridlock to head towards 2007's record levels as people return to work, freight transportation increases, and consumers switch back to vacations from staycations."

According to the scorecard, New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago were ranked the worst traffic bottlenecks in the country, with the westbound side of the Cross Bronx Expressway in New York the worst.

Inrix also analyzed commercial freight traffic concentration, and found that while the nation's busiest long haul freight roadways cut across 28 states, more than 95 percent of this mileage comes from just 10 states, including Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee and Texas. There appeared to be more long haul freight usage on roads in the middle of the country that serve as thoroughfares, such as I-40, I-75, I-81 and I-35.

"Our findings highlight the national interconnectivity of the truck and highway portion of our national freight system and demonstrate that changes in freight movement trends and the effects of system improvements can have a significant impact on overall traffic congestion," said Rick Schuman, vice president of public sector at Inrix. "The analysis highlights that long haul freight movement is spread equally between urban and rural roadways, underscoring that the development of a national freight strategy to optimize highway network efficiency and reliability - for both trucks and passenger vehicles - is in the interest of both rural and urban constituencies."

According to the report, the top 10 most congested cities in the first half of 2009 were:

1. Los Angeles, Calif.
2. New York, N.Y.
3. Chicago, Ill.
4. Washington, D.C. (from 5th in first half of 2008)
5. Dallas, Texas (from 4th in first half of 2008)
6. Houston, Texas
7. San Francisco, Calif.
8. Boston, Mass.
9. Seattle, Wash.
10. Philadelphia, Pa.

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