The OKI region’s quality of life and economic competitiveness are closely related to the degree to which the transportation system is able to provide an acceptable level of mobility. Congestion is the level at which transportation system performance is no longer acceptable due to traffic interference. The level of acceptable system performance will vary by type of transportation facility, location within the region and time of day. The level of acceptable system performance depends upon transportation and development goals for the region and reflects public perception of traffic interference. This traffic interference may be recurring or non-recurring congestion. Recurring congestion is caused by consistently excessive travel demand as compared to available roadway capacity. Sometimes, poor signal timings, poor access-management and roadway geometric deficiencies contribute to reduced capacity. Non-recurring congestion occurs due to traffic incidents, adverse weather or road construction.   Physical bottlenecks account for about 40% of all congestion. The remaining congestion is the results of traffic incidents (25%), poor weather (15%), work zones (10%), poor signal timing (5%) and special events (5%).




Traffic Incidents


Poor Weather


Work Zones


Poor Signal Timing


Special Events

Source: “Traffic Congestion and Reliability: Trends and Advanced Strategies for Congestion Mitigation”, FHWA 2013

The importance of congestion is reflected in federal transportation rules requiring a Congestion Management Process (CMP) in metropolitan areas. The CMP provides for safe and effective integrated management and operation of the multimodal transportation system and results in performance measures and strategies that can be reflected in the metropolitan transportation plan and TIP.

National Perspectives on Congestion

Congestion in the OKI region can be viewed in a national context to see how we stand in comparison to other major U.S. metropolitan areas.

The Texas A&M Transportation Institute has been documenting the growth of congestion levels in the nation’s urban areas since the 1980s. Their mission has been to document mobility trends and highlight numerous issues associated with roadway congestion. In their most recent report, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute’s findings are drawn from traffic speed data collected by INRIX on urban streets and highways, along with highway performance data from the Federal Highway Administration. The report contains several interesting mobility statistics through 2014 for the Cincinnati Urban Area:

  • Cincinnati is the 45th most congested urban area in the U.S using annual delay per auto commuter.
  • 25% of peak travel occurs under congested conditions.
  • A Cincinnatian peak period auto traveler is delayed 41 hours a year.
  • On a per person basis, congestion wastes 21 gallons of fuel each year.
  • The annual cost in delay and fuel in 2014 due to congestion was $989 per peak auto commuter.

The Texas A&M study reflects the average condition of roadways in the entire urban area, not specific facilities and locations. The OKI CMP attempts to better pinpoint congestion problems within the urban area. It provides a level of analysis that allows for more informed decision-making in the transportation planning process.

Congestion Performance Measures

Congestion performance measures are parameters that characterize conditions on the multimodal transportation system in the region. Performance measures can identify the intensity and extent of congestion, measure accessibility and reliability of the system, evaluate freight movement, and address mobility via transit, bicycle and pedestrians. This information can be used to track changes in mobility over time, identify subareas or corridors with mobility problems, and identify causes of potential hindrances to mobility. It also provides information to decision-makers and the public as part of the transportation project selection process.  As transportation improvements and strategies are implemented over time, these measures aide in evaluating the effectiveness of mobility enhancement strategies for the movement of people and goods. Appropriate performance measure are clearly understood, not too difficult or costly to collect, and sensitive to the impact of congestion mitigation strategies.

The CMP makes use of the following performance measures.

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Travel Time Index-TTI

Intersection Delay

Intersection Level-of-Service

Travel Time and Travel Speeds are calculated from the National Performance Management Research Data Set (NPMRDS) provide by HERE.

Total Vehicle Delay

Peak Period Travel Times between Major Destinations

Incident Clearance Time

Buffer Index


Existing Conditions

Intensity of Congestion

The relative severity of travel congestion is measured by travel time, speed and the calculated measure called travel time index. Several contiguous bottlenecks occur during the morning and afternoon (4-6pm) weekday peak periods.

Morning Bottlenecks (7-9am):

  • In Kentucky, AM bottlenecks are I-471 northbound from I-275 to the Ohio River, and I-71/75 northbound from I-275 to 5th Street.
  • In Ohio, AM bottlenecks are I-275 northbound from Milford Parkway to I-71, I-71 northbound from Dana Avenue to Steward Road, I-71 southbound from Mason-Montgomery to Red Bank Road, I-74 eastbound from North Bend Road to US27, I-75 northbound from Western Hills Viaduct to SR126 Cross County, and I-75 southbound from Union Centre Blvd. to Mitchell Avenue. I-75 southbound from Galbraith Road to Reagan Cross County Highway had the highest travel time index (3.60) during the AM.
  • Several non-freeway sections also experience high congestion in the AM peak, including KY 17 north of I-275 and SR 125 in Clermont County.

Afternoon Bottlenecks (4-6pm):

  • In Kentucky, I-275 eastbound and I-71/I-75 northbound showed high congestion with a travel time index as high as 2.87.
  • In Ohio, both directions of I-71 and I-75 in Hamilton County showed high PM congestion as measured by the travel time index.
  • Non-freeway locations also experience high PM congestion, such as SR 4, US-127 (Hamilton Avenue) and US 22 (Montgomery Road).

Weekday Peak Period Speeds and Travel Time Index

Source: National Performance Research Data Set as provided by HERE, Inc.  Data from July 2015.
Complete peak period speed, travel time and TTI information.

Utilizing peak period intersection turning movement counts and intersection capacity software, major regional intersection were evaluated for vehicle delay.

The intersection at US 25 and KY 536 showed the most overall delay, with level-of-service F during both the AM (134.3 seconds of delay per vehicle) and PM (80.5 seconds of delay per vehicle).

Intersection Delay

IntersectionCountyAM Delay (s/veh)AM Level of ServicePM Delay (s/veh)PM Level of ServiceYear
SR 32 @ Glen Este-WithamsvilleClermont31.8C42.6D2013
US 50 @ SR 131Clermont26.9C34.4C2013
Columbia Pkwy @ Delta AveHamilton28.5C37.9D2013
Montgomery Road @ Kenwood RdHamilton28.8C77.3E2012
Beechmont Ave @ SR 125 (Beechmont Av) @ Five Mile RoadHamilton31.2C62.3E2014
Mason-Montgomery @ Tylersville RdWarren34.3C84.9F2013
SR 4 @ Bypass 4Butler12.5B11.5B2013
SR 4 @ Muhlhauser RdButler25.8C29C2013
SR 4 @ SR 129Butler80E50.4D2013
SR 747 @ Muhlhauser RdButler72.4E71.3E2013
US 50 @ IN 350Dearborn43.1D32.5C2014
US 50 @ SR 1 (Belleview)Dearborn55.4E64.3E2014
SR 747 @ Kemper RdHamilton32C49.3D2013
US 42 @ Galbraith RdHamilton28.8C33.3C2013
US 25 @ KY 536Boone134.3F80.5F2014
US 42 @ KY 842Boone47.1D58.1E2014
KY-18 @ KY 842Boone34.6C74.2E2014
US 27 @ I-471Campbell34.1C42D2014
KY 17 @ KY 1072Kenton36.1D44.4D2014

Duration of Congestion

Congestion also occurs outside of the peak hours and can vary in intensity within the hour. The duration relates to the amount of time the congested conditions persist before returning to an uncongested state.

As an example, Portions of I-71/75 and US 27 in Kentucky and portions of I-75, MLK Boulevard, SR 125 and Red Bank Road can all experience congestion for eight hours or more per day.

Travel Time Index


Download the Data

Extent of Congestion

The extent of congestion is measured by the number of transportation system users that are affected by congestion. Hourly traffic volume, hourly delay and length of each freeway section are considered to develop the total hours of daily weekday vehicle delay per mile.

I-75 southbound from Ezzard Charles Drive to Freeman Avenue has the most hours of delay per mile over the 24-hour average weekday at 1397 hours.

Total Delay Per Mile – Interstates

StateRoute/FacilityFromToDirectionDistanceVehicle Delay per Mile (hours)
OhioI-75Ezzard Charles Dr/Exit 1Freeman Ave/Exit 1Southbound0.271397.00
OhioI-75W 7th St/Exit 16th St OverpassSouthbound0.181390.00
OhioI-75Freeman Ave/Exit 1W 7th St/Exit 1Southbound0.291238.00
KentuckyI-71/I-75US-127/US-42/US-25/Exit 188KY-1072/Kyles Ln/Exit 189Northbound0.94935.00
OhioI-75Western Ave/Findlay St/Exit 2Ezzard Charles Dr/Exit 1Southbound0.49928.00
OhioI-75Galbraith Rd/Exit 10Ronald Reagan Cross County Hwy/Exit 10Southbound0.45892.00
KentuckyI-71/I-75KY-1072/Kyles Ln/Exit 18912th St/Pike St/Exit 191Northbound1.53868.00
KentuckyI-71/I-75KY-371/Buttermilk Pike/Exit 186US-127/US-42/US-25/Exit 188Northbound1.35799.00
OhioI-75US-52/Hopple St/Exit 3Western Hills Viaduct/Exit 2Southbound0.82777.00
KentuckyI-71/I-7512th St/Pike St/Exit 1915th St/Exit 192Northbound0.81769.00


To examine travel times within the OKI region, major destinations including the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), downtown Cincinnati, Eastgate shopping area, Northern Kentucky University, Kings Island and Sharonville are chosen for analysis. PM peak travel times are used because PM is typically more congested. The travel times are average weekday PM peak hour travel times for the month of April 2015. Times are for a route on the shortest interstate highway path between destinations and only include travel to the section ending nearest the destination, therefore a small amount of additional travel time, not reflected here, may be necessary to reach the destination.

In 2015, the average PM peak period travel time between major destinations was 30 minutes and in 2011 it was 22 minutes.

Travel times have worsened or lengthened over the four year time span.  However, this difference in travel times, may be attributed in some part to the fact that data collection methodology has vastly improved.

PM Peak Period Observed Travel Times between Major Destinations in Minutes (2011)

PM Peak Period Observed Travel Times between Major Destinations in Minutes (2015)


The variability or change in congestion on a day-to-day basis provides a measure of reliability. Recurring congestion is generally predictable, regularly occurring, and typically caused by excess demand compared to the capacity of the system. On the other hand, non-recurring congestion causes unreliable travel times and is caused by transient events such as traffic incidents, weather conditions, work zones, or special events. This non-recurring form of congestion is often the most frustrating for travelers.

Weekday Peak Period Speeds and Travel Time Index Values

The map shows travel time reliability by direction for eleven high volume corridors from 7am to 7pm. Data is for average weekday travel in 2014. Highly reliable periods are shown in green and the least reliable periods are shaded red.

On average, I-71/75 northbound in Kentucky is least reliable throughout the day.

I-75 southbound between the Ohio River and SR 562 shows the least reliable time period, 5-6pm, with a buffer index value of 2.41 (241 percent). This means, for a 10-minute average travel time, a traveler should budget an additional 24 minutes (10 minutes × 2.41 percent = 24 minutes) to ensure on-time arrival most of the time.
 Additional measures of reliability, such as the planning time and planning time index, are also shown.

ODOT, through its OHGO program, provides travelers with up-to-date information on road conditions, traffic, construction, and other activity over 200 miles of the region’s busiest highways. This includes over 48 miles of interstates in Kentucky and three miles in Indiana. Information provided on the site is updated frequently and comes from a variety of sources, such as pavement sensors and monitoring stations, traffic cameras, and through direct input by ODOT personnel. Incident management consists of a planned and coordinated multi-disciplinary process to detect, respond to, and clear traffic incidents so that traffic flow may be restored as safely and quickly as possible. Effective incident management dramatically reduces the duration and impacts of traffic incidents. The ODOT Traffic Operations Control Center in Columbus monitors traffic with over 80 cameras in the OKI region and facilitates communication among law enforcement and emergency responders.

In 2014, ODOT logged over 2,400 traffic incidents in the OKI region that were not caused by roadwork, weather or special events. The average incident clearance time of these incidents in 2014 was 50 minutes.

Impact on Freight

The OKI region is a major link in America’s freight transportation network. More than 323 million tons of freight flow into, out of and through the region annually. About one-third of this freight is inbound, destined for major businesses in the region such as General Electric, AK Steel, Toyota, and Schwan Food Company. For these and hundreds of other businesses, transportation is their lifeblood. Fortunately from an economic development standpoint, the OKI region provides a powerful nexus for truck, rail, barge, and air transportation. More than 80 percent of the region’s freight moves by truck, so major highways and local roads are vital to regional commerce. I-75, running north/south through the region, is one of the heaviest truck corridors in America. The remaining 20 percent of the region’s freight is moved by rail, barge, air and pipeline. Due to changes in the global supply chain overall freight volumes in the OKI region are forecasted to increase 56 percent by 2040—from 323 million tons in 2009 to 487 million tons in 2040. (Source: “OKI Regional Freight Plan”, OKI Regional Council of Governments, August 2011.) Truck traffic is forecasted to increase from 9.8 million loaded trucks in 2009 to 16 million loaded trucks by 2040—a 63 percent increase over 30 years. Much of the region’s congested locations occur in areas that also have a high volume of freight traffic. These congestion impacts costs to shippers and ultimately, the consumer. There are critical links in the system that dramatically impact freight mobility. Most notable is the Brent Spence Bridge, which carries I-71/75 across the Ohio River. Freight traffic can now back up many miles because of congestion on the bridge, having negative effects on business, employment, and regional income.

Truck hours of delay is a measure of the regional accumulated time that trucks are delayed on regional roadways included in the National Freight Network.

During July 2015, average daily truck hours of delay in the OKI region was 4,610 hours. This delay costs $698,000 in lost time and $1.4 million in wasted diesel fuel.


In 2014, nearly 21 million passenger trips in the region were accommodated by public transit vehicles. That equates to 12.46 transit trips per capita. The Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA), Transit Authority of Northern Kentucky (TANK), Clermont Transportation Connection (CTC), Middletown Transit, and the Butler County Regional Transit Authority (BCRTA) operate fixed route and demand response transit service. Nearly all of the transit trips occur on the Congestion Management Network; therefore highway congestion directly impacts transit travel. Increasing transit ridership helps reduce demand on the highway system.

The OKI travel demand model estimates that public transportation eliminates over 30,000 daily person trips by automobile.

Public transportation improvements may be used as mitigation strategies to address roadway congestion. The expansion of bus transit service, the introduction of rail transit service, new or expanded Park&Ride facilities, adding transit signal priority, bus-rapid-transit and reserved bus travel lanes or expanded bus-on-shoulder are all possible strategies. The expansion of transit traveler information systems would also make transit more attractive for users.

Evaluation of Regional Congestion Performance Measures

Performance MeasureMost Recent ValueTrend (compared to same previous year)
Daily Hours of Person Delay
96,115 (July 15)
Cost of Delay (Daily Value of Wasted Time)
$2,232,453 (July 15)
Cost of Delay (Daily Value of Wasted Fuel)
$3,317,386 (July 15)
Wasted Daily CO2 Emissions
11,888,416 kg (July 15)
Percent Daily Vehicle Miles Traveled Operating in Congestion
13% (July 15)
Daily Hours of Truck Delay on Freight Network
4,610 (July 15)
Average Daytime Buffer Index
0.34 (2014)
Not Measured
Average Incident Clearance Time
53 minutes (Second Quarter 2015)
Annual Transit Ridership per Capita
12.46 (2014)

A summary of data for OKI’s Congestion Management Network (CMN) as it relates to several performance measures and a comparison to previous data, if available, is summarized as follows:

  • Total person hours of delay has been calculated as 96,115 hours per day. The cost of delay is $2.2 million per day in wasted time. Wasted time is based on a value of time equal to $17.67 an hour and a commercial value of time (truck travel) of $94.04 an hour.
  • The delay cost of wasted fuel is $3.3 million per day.  Recent regional averages for cost of gasoline and diesel were used. This equates to about $1.2 billion per year. This is greater than the same period last year.
  • Travel delay leads to additional vehicle emissions equivalent to 11.8 million kilograms of carbon dioxide.  This is greater than the same period last year.
  • Thirteen percent of the daily vehicle miles traveled on the OKI CMN operates under congested conditions.  This is less than the same period last year.
  • Daily hours of truck delay on the OKI portion of the National Freight Network is 4,651. Truck delay is greater than the same period last year.
  • A measure of travel time reliability, average buffer index on 11 major corridors, is 0.34. A similar performance measure for 2013 is not available.
  • Average incident clearance time, as collected by ODOT for 2014, was fifty-three minutes. This is greater than the same period last year.
  • Annual transit ridership per capita is 12.46.  This value is less than the previous year due to fewer transit riders.

Potential Congestion Management Strategies

OKI’s CMP has identified a number of strategies to combat congestion.  Strategies can be broadly divided into four categories: travel demand management, traffic operational improvements, public transportation improvements and highway capacity expansion. Many of the recommended projects in this Plan will contain congestion management strategies.

Travel Demand Management (TDM) Strategies Can Help to Provide Travelers with More Options and Reduce the Number of Vehicles or Trips During the Peak Periods.

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  • Congestion pricing
  • Parking management
  • Carpools and Vanpools
  • Livability measures
  • Incorporate bicycle facilities
  • Employer Programs
  • Freight efficiency

Traffic Operational Improvements

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  • Access management
  • Improve intersection geometry
  • Traffic calming
  • Incident management
  • Intersection turn lanes
  • Eliminate at-grade rail crossings
  • Work zone management

Intelligent Transportation System (ITS). ITS measures include the following:

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  • Improved signalization
  • Expansion of traveler information systems
  • Active traffic management
  • Ramp metering

Public Transportation Improvements

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  • Expansion of transit service
  • New or expanded Park and Ride facilities or transit centers
  • Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)
  • Reserved bus travel lanes including bus-on-shoulder

Highway Capacity Expansion

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  • Additional travel lanes
  • Elimination of bottle necks
  • Center turn lanes