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ARTERIAL STREETS & HIGHWAYS

 

Arterial streets and highways are streets and highways that primarily provide mobility, as opposed to access to adjacent homes and businesses. They include freeways and surface arterials, and they serve the through movement of traffic and provide transportation between and within the urban and rural areas of Southeastern Wisconsin. The year 2050 arterial street and highway system recommended in VISION 2050 is designed to address forecast year 2050 congestion, resulting in slightly reduced overall traffic congestion, travel time delay, and average automobile trips times when compared to current levels. In addition, implementing the recommended arterial improvements would improve overall safety and maintain the condition of the pavement and bridges along the planned arterial system. Review the key recommendations related to arterial streets and highways and a summary of recent activity. Then, explore relevant metrics the Commission monitors using the interactive maps and charts provided below.

 

WHAT VISION 2050 RECOMMENDS:

  • Keeping the arterial street and highway system in a state of good repair

  • Incorporating complete streets concepts

  • Strategically expanding arterial capacity to accommodate all roadway users and address residual congestion

  • Minimizing total traffic crashes, along with crashes involving fatalities and serious injuries

HOW ARE WE DOING?
Activity since VISION 2050 was originally adopted in 2016

Approximately 450 miles of 3,600-mile arterial system have been resurfaced, reconditioned, or reconstructed

8 miles of new facilities have been constructed or are under construction and 51 miles of facilities planned to be widened have been constructed or are under construction

Total vehicular crashes and crashes involving a serious injury have increased since 2015

The number of fatal crashes and fatalities has decreased slightly since 2015

Complete Streets projects are being implemented throughout the Region, including "road diets" in Racine and Milwaukee and enhanced bike/ped facilities in Wauwatosa, Milwaukee, and Waukesha County

VEHICLE AVAILABILITY

Vehicle Availability

Vehicle Availability

Persons Per Vehicle

Persons Per Vehicle

Personal-Use Vehicle Availability in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1963-2050

The number of personal-use vehicles—cars, trucks, and vans used by residents of the Region for personal transportation—increased by 5.5% from 2012 to 2017. The rate of growth has been decreasing over the past several decades, and is expected to lessen further under VISION 2050. 

Source: SEWRPC

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PAVEMENT & BRIDGE CONDITION

Pavement Condition on Arterial Streets and Highways in the Region: 2016 and 2017

PavementConditionThumbnail.png

The Commission coordinates with State, county, and local governments to monitor pavement conditions using a combination of International Roughness Index (IRI), used by the State, and the Pavement Surface Evaluation and Rating (PASER) scale, used by county and local governments in Wisconsin. For purposes of a more general analysis, scores from these two rating systems are designated as good, fair, and poor as indicated in the legend in the pavement condition map. 

As of the most recently available data, 51.4% of pavement is in good condition, 39.2% of pavement is in fair condition, and 9.4% of pavement is in poor condition.

 

Since 2013, the percent of pavement in poor condition has decreased by 11%, the percent of pavement in fair condition has increased by 13% and the percent of pavement in good condition has decreased by 6%.  

Source: WisDOT and SEWRPC

Bridge Condition in the Region: 2018

Similar to pavement condition, the Commission monitors bridge condition in the Region using bridge sufficiency ratings provided by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT). These data are collected through bridge inspections performed by WisDOT and local municipalities following Federal guidelines. For the purposes of a more general analysis, sufficiency ratings are designated as good, fair, and poor as indicated in the legend of the bridge condition map. 

As of 2018, 74.1% of bridges were rated in good condition, 18.2% were rated in fair condition, and 7.7% were rated in poor condition. 

Since 2013, the percent of bridges in poor condition has increased by 79% (an increase of 3.4%), the percent of bridges in fair condition has decreased by 22%, and the percent of bridges in good condition has increased by 2%.

BridgeConditionThumbnail.png

Source: WisDOT and SEWRPC

 
 
Freeway Traffic Congestion Levels.png
 

TRAFFIC VOLUME & CONGESTION

Arterial Vehicle-Miles of Travel Within Southeastern Wisconsin on an Average Weekday: 1963-2017

The total volume of travel on the Region's arterial streets and highways increased an average of 2.8% per year between 1963 and 2005. Since then, the volume of travel has increased at a slower rate, about 0.3% per year between 2005 and 2019.

The slower growth in VMT since 2005 is due in part to:

  • Higher fuel prices

  • The economic recession that occurred during the late 2000s

  • Slower population, households, and jobs growth

  • Slower decline in average household size

  • Slower decline in average personal vehicle occupancy

Source: SEWRPC

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Freeway and Surface Arterial Traffic Congestion Levels

Traffic congestion on the arterial street and highway system may be categorized as moderate, severe, or extreme, with each level characterized by travel speed, operating conditions, and level of service. Below is a description of congestion definitions used for reporting purposes.

Freeway

Level of Traffic Congestion

None

None

Level of Service

A and B

C

Average Speed

Freeway operates at free-flow speed

Freeway operates at free-flow speed

Operating Conditions

No restrictions on ability to maneuver and change lanes.

Ability to maneuver and change lanes noticeably restricted.

Moderate

D

Freeway operates at 1 to 2 mph below free-flow speed.

Ability to maneuver and change lanes more noticeably limited. Reduced driver physical and psychological comfort levels.

Severe

E

Freeway operates at up to 10 mph below free-flow speed

Virtually no ability to maneuver and change lanes. Operation at maximum capacity. No usable gaps in the traffic stream to accommodate lane changing.

Extreme

F

Freeway average speeds are 20 to 30 mph or less

Breakdown in vehicular flow with stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Surface Arterial

Level of Traffic Congestion

None

Level of Service

A and B

Average Speed

70 to 100% of free-flow speed

Operating Conditions

None

C

50 to 100% of free-flow speed

Restricted ability to maneuver and change lanes at mid-block locations.

Moderate

D

40 to 50% of free-flow speed

Restricted ability to maneuver and change lanes. Small increases in flow lead to substantial increases in delay and decreases in travel speed.

Severe

E

33 to 40% of free-flow speed

Significant restrictions on lane changes. Traffic flow approaches instability.

Extreme

F

25 to 33% of free-flow speed

Flow at extremely low speeds. Intersection congestion with high delays, high volumes, and extensive queuing.

Ability to maneuver within traffic stream is unimpeded. Control delay at signalized intersections is minimal.

Congestion on the Regional Arterial Street and Highway Network: 2011 and 2017

2011

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2017

2017CongestionThumbnail.png

Source: SEWRPC

The Region's freeway system represents only about 8% of the total arterial system mileage, but carries about 39% of total regional average weekday vehicle-miles of travel. As a result, the Region's freeway system tends to experience more extreme and severe traffic congestion compared to the non-freeway system.

In 2017, about 20.6% of Milwaukee County's arterials experienced congestion on an average weekday, the highest proportion of any county in the Region. By comparison, only 0.6% of Walworth County's arterials experienced congestion on an average weekday in 2017.

Estimated Traffic Congestion on the Arterial Street & Highway System on an Average Weekday in Southeastern Wisconsin: 2001-2017

The overall level of congestion on the Region's arterial street and highway system declined slightly between 2001 and 2017. In 2017, about 91.8% of arterials experienced no congestion on an average weekday, and about 8.2% of arterials experienced moderate, severe, or extreme congestion.

Source: SEWRPC

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Vehicle Miles of Travel and Traffic Congestion on the Arterial Street and Highway System in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1963-2017

After the Region’s freeway system was completed in the early 1970s, the miles of arterials experiencing congestion increased steadily until about 2007, following a pattern of increasing VMT, employment, and households during the same period. Simultaneously, vehicle occupancy, carpooling, transit service, and transit ridership declined significantly.

From 2008 to 2011, the Region experienced a modest decrease in congestion, likely a result of both the completion of the Marquette Interchange reconstruction project and the economic downturn during that period. Since then, miles of congestion have remained stable—despite an increase in VMT—in part due to the completion of the Zoo Interchange and IH 94 North-South reconstruction projects.

Source: SEWRPC

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Estimated Freeway System Traffic Congestion on an
Average Weekday in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1972-2017

Since Southeastern Wisconsin's freeway system was completed in 1972, congestion on the freeway system has grown at a faster rate than congestion on the the arterial street and highway system as a whole.

 

The miles of freeways in the Region experiencing congestion increased by about 38 miles (258% increase) between 1975 and 1995, and by about

28 miles (52% increase) between 1995 and 2015. 

Source: SEWRPC

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Estimated Peak Hour Arterial Street and Highway Travel Time Contours: 2011 and 2017

Milwaukee Central Business District

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Milwaukee Regional Medical Center

MRMCContoursThumbnail.png

Source: SEWRPC

The travel time contour maps help visualize estimated travel times to and from the two largest job centers in the Region—the Milwaukee Central Business District in downtown Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center in Wauwatosa. Travel times in 2001 and 2017 are very similar for these locations. These maps help provide context for congestion by illustrating how accessible these destinations are in terms of reasonable commute times.

 
 
 

AIR POLLUTANT EMISSIONS

Annual Transportation-Related Emissions of Greenhouse Gases

and Other Air Pollutants: 2011 and 2017

Estimated air pollutant emissions have declined in Southeastern Wisconsin for all pollutants between 2011 and 2017, and quite significantly in many cases.

These changes are due in large part to past and current Federal fuel and vehicle fuel economy standards, which have led to the adoption of modern automotive technologies that improve emissions controls, including computers, fuel injection, and on-board diagnostics.

Source: SEWRPC

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SAFETY

Total Crashes

Total Crashes

Fatal Crashes

Fatal Crashes

Fatal Crash Characteristics

Fatal Crash Characteristics

Serious Injury Crashes

Serious Injury Crashes

Crash Rates

Crash Rates

Total, Property-Damage-Only, and Injury and Fatal Vehicular Crashes
Reported in Southeastern Wisconsin: 1994-2018

After a downward trend of total vehicular crashes in the Region since the mid-1990s, the total number of crashes has gradually increased between 2012 and 2018 by about 27%

This recent increase in total crashes has largely been driven by a

36% increase in crashes involving only property damage between 2012 and 2018.

Between 1998 and 2018, crashes involving an injury or a fatality steadily decreased by about 30%. This decline is due in large part to automakers incorporating improved safety features in their vehicles.

Source: SEWRPC

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