Study: Southern California takes the cake in freeway congestion

A new university study released this week confirms what many here already know: Orange County has some of the most congested freeways in the nation.

California can boast — or loathe — that it has nine of the 10 most clogged stretches of freeway in the country, with a majority in Los Angeles County.

But just take a short drive southbound on the San Diego (405) or Santa Ana (5) freeways to the O.C., and the situation isn't much better.

According to the study by an institute at Texas A&M University, parts of the 405, 5 and Costa Mesa (55) freeways slicing through Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Irvine and Huntington Beach experience some of the worst traffic in the country during the morning and after-work rush hours.

The nearly eight-mile, northbound drive on the 405 from MacArthur Boulevard to Brookhurst Street in Fountain Valley is the 22nd most-congested corridor, costing drivers an estimated 497,000 hours and 1.7 million gallons of gas. Between 3 and 7 p.m., the same leg ranks as the third biggest time-waster for drivers in the country, costing drivers 433,000 hours in that window alone, according to the study.

Afternoons are the worst for Orange County freeways. The 6.5-mile southbound drive on the 55 from the Corona del Mar (73) Freeway to the Fourth Street/Irvine Boulevard exit in Santa Ana was the 29th biggest time-waster.

The 8.5-mile drive on the northbound 5 from Sand Canyon Avenue in Irvine to the 17th Street exit in Santa Ana ranked 42 overall in total congestion nationwide, and cost drivers 297,000 hours in the afternoon, making it the 25th biggest time-waster, according to the study.

Other local areas to rank among the top 100 in wasting time or gas include the southbound 5 between Alton Parkway and El Toro Road, the southbound 55 between Katella and McFadden avenues, and the southbound 405 between the 55 and the University Drive offramp.

The 2011 Congested Corridors Report, conducted last year by the Texas Transportation Institute, examined 328 highway legs in the United States.

To deal with these problems, and an Orange County population expected to grow 11% by 2040, the Orange County Transportation Authority has hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to improving freeways.

There's a $600-million project to possibly widen the 405 between the 73 and the San Gabriel River (605) Freeway, and plans to widen the 55 between the Garden Grove (22) Freeway and the 405.

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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