Study shows Portland highways are either at capacity or nearly there

Updated Aug 18, 2015
Traffic on U.S. 26 in Portland. Photo Credit: The OregonianTraffic on U.S. 26 in Portland. Photo Credit: The Oregonian

Drivers in Oregon probably noticed their commute has been getting significantly more lengthy this year, and a new study found most drivers could already tell: highways in the state are way too crowded.

The Oregonian reported the Oregon Department of Transportation conducted a study over the past week which found most of the state’s highways are either at capacity or just below it.

Oregon’s total vehicle miles traveled has increased 6.3 percent just since the beginning of the year—double the national average. Some of that could be contributed to the increase in drivers in the state. The study found that 75,748 new residents turned in a drivers license from another state in 2014, up 29 percent from five years ago.

The at-capacity highways have meant drivers are spending more time on the roads. Commuters are getting home 30 or 45 minutes later than what it would normally take with less congested roads.

However, ODOT spokesman Don Hamilton said the study was done in one of the busiest travel times of the year, so another one will be done in the coming weeks. But he said even if the results are the same, there’s not much that can be done due to budget constraints.

The Oregon Legislature failed to pass a transportation funding package this year, while the national government continues to kick the can down the road with patch after patch.

Plans to expand highways or bridges are simply too expensive for the department and Hamilton said it didn’t help that the $2.8 billion Columbia River Crossing project would have been halfway complete if the government hadn’t shut down work in 2014.