Rebounding economy continues to put more drivers on state highways

(OLYMPIA)– As unemployment in Washington state approaches pre-recession levels, more drivers hit the road in 2016, and again followed the lead of the local economy.

Between 2014 and 2016, commuters in urban areas throughout Washington saw increases in congestion and delay, due largely to the effects of drivers traveling more miles on already-crowded urban highways. The number of miles drivers traveled on state highways increased 6.4 percent from 2014 to 2016 (to a new high of 34.227 billion), according to the Washington State Department of Transportation’s 2017 Multimodal Corridor Capacity Report.

In addition, 3.2 percent more passenger vehicles registered in 2016 than in 2014. During the same period, the number of licensed drivers increased by 4.3 percent. All these factors combined to add more drivers to Washington state’s already busy roadways.

The number of people riding transit during daily peak periods increased 8 percent on urban commute corridors, from 88,150 in 2014 to 95,300 in 2016. As an example, transit moved 4.5 general-purpose lanes full of cars—equivalent to 52,887 people–on I-5 between Federal Way and Everett during morning and evening peak periods on average weekdays.