Why Is There So Much Traffic in Maryland?

Why Is There So Much Traffic in Maryland?

June 3, 2024 Blog Business Travel Tips 0

Just how much traffic is there in Maryland? Well, remember this quote? “Nothing is certain except death and taxes” it’s an oft-repeated quote by Benjamin Franklin and in Maryland, you can add traffic to that list of life’s certainties.

“It’s death, taxes, and congestion on the Beltway in Silver Spring,” WTOP traffic reporter Dave Dildine commented about a report. “Drivers can count on Beltway congestion between Bethesda and Silver Spring most days of the week, year-round.”

And, that’s just one example of how bad traffic in Maryland can get. The fact of the matter is if you live in Maryland, it’s not uncommon to find yourself sitting on the highway for long periods with many other drivers sharing the same situation. 

So will the public adjust to Maryland traffic ever? Let’s find out more why its as bad as it is.

A combination of poor road conditions and congestion contribute to making the state one of the worst to drive in. According to a report by the personal finance website MoneyGeek, Maryland ranks second after New Jersey for the state with the most congested roads, followed by Hawaii, California and Massachusetts. Overall, it is in fifth place for the worst states for drivers after New Jersey, California, West Virginia and Mississippi. 

States with the Most Congested Roads
New Jersey

Source: MoneyGeek

Traffic congestion happens when too many vehicles are traveling on the same part or portion of a roadway at a particular time. This leads to speeds that are much slower than free flow or normal speeds. You’ll know this when traffic there’s stop-and-go traffic or vehicle movement has stopped altogether.

The causes of traffic congestion include car accidents, weather, construction zones, and distracted driving. In Maryland, here are the major causes of traffic. 

More Vehicles Sharing the Road

Just imagine hundreds of thousands of vehicles traveling along roads and highways, most of which are converging on metro areas in Maryland and the nearby D.C. area. As one Redditor put it, Maryland is a relatively small state with large metro areas dominating. 

In short, there’s not much room for vehicles to move around. Most of them will be going through the same roads and highways and contribute to traffic congestion in the process. 

If you’re asking “where are all these people from and where are they all going?” this might give you an idea. Maryland’s population has nearly doubled since the 1960s. A major reason for this population growth are the plentiful employment opportunities in downtown D.C. and Northern Virginia. Add to that all the other employees commuting to and from work from neighboring areas. In other words, flocks of people are driving to and from their work, most of which are concentrated in one area. Boom, traffic! 

“You get in rush hour traffic coming into Baltimore on either side, it’s just a fight,” truck driver Harold Henderson told WJZ.

Poor Roads and Old Infrastructure

Maryland’s Interstate system carries 30% of the state’s vehicle travel, according to a report from TRIP, a national transportation research non-profit. Unfortunately, the interstate system is not in good shape. 

“There are just more potholes it seems like,” truck driver Harold Henderson told WJZ. And, some highways are just so bad that screws fall off his truck.

Here’s an example. According to a report from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), more than 200 bridges in the state are structurally deficient. In other words, these bridges are in poor or worse condition. Among the top most traveled structurally deficient bridges in the state, one was built in 1921. This bridge, located in Pulaski Highway over Herring Run, sees nearly 60,000 daily crossings.

You can blame the budget for this – or rather the lack thereof. According to the State Highway Administration, while congestion has increased over the years, the funding for roads and public transportation has not. Funds have been limited for such essential projects, which means progress on this front has been slow. 

In addition, road maintenance and repair will also get hit by budget cuts, so the things that can be done will be quite limited indeed. 

“It’ll be things like resurfacing projects,” Maryland State Highway Administrator Will Pines told WTOP News. “Rather than doing a more comprehensive resurfacing of roadway, we’ll use lower cost treatments to try to extend the life of the roadway for longer. But that does lead to less driver comfort and lower service level conditions of the road while we wait to get to that bigger project.”

This scenario is common across the nation, however. The American Society of Civil Engineers notes that 43% of the country’s 4.2 million miles of roads are in poor or mediocre condition. But, given the nearly $800 billion construction backlog, repairs on most of them will have to be deferred. 

Reckless Driver Behavior

With a diverse population, perhaps it is understandable that drivers’ behavior on the road might differ because of their many backgrounds. This behavior might be formed by how they learned to drive and what their driving experience has been like before moving to Maryland. In short, when people from different places in the country or the world arrive in the state, they inadvertently also bring with them their local driving habits. This is to put it in a more understandable light. 

However, other Marylanders might beg to differ and simply say that there are plenty of bad and reckless drivers around without discrimination to where they might be from originally. 

“Unfortunately, what we are seeing is a rise in risky driving behaviors to include red-light running, speeding, driving while impaired, you name it. We are seeing an increase in those risky behaviors,” AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson Ragina Ali told 11 News.

John Stout, a motorist, added: “A lot of people changing lanes without signaling, stopping or braking abruptly for no reason, speeding. It seems to be the big, big thing that people are doing these days. I think maybe a revisiting of driver’s ed for adults would be beneficial. A lot of people don’t know how to drive these days.”

Ali notes that these bad driving habits started during the pandemic in 2020. But, in any case, the root problem appears to be a lack of courtesy when driving because everyone is in a hurry to get somewhere. 

And, if they’re not in a hurry, drivers can get distracted with their phones. Distracted driving is a leading cause of crashes, which is another reason for more traffic in Maryland.