For the many people who do their holiday traveling by car, maddening traffic jams are an annual tradition. That’s especially true for motorists whose journeying takes them through the city. In the hopes of saving travelers some stress this season, WIRED teamed up with the internet services company Inrix to break down America’s most dreadful holiday bottlenecks by region.
Inrix looked at more than 150 million data points from the 2015 holiday season, and found that just five metro areas accounted for the 20 worst traffic spots. Southern California residents shouldn’t be surprised to hear that their region occupied the top five entries in the West. If driving through the Los Angeles metro area is necessary to make your trip, at least try avoiding these pressure points: I-5 at Valley View Avenue, CA-91 at Main Street, I-10 at I-5/US-101, US-101 at Mission Road, and I-210 at Sunflower Avenue.
In the Midwest, Milwaukee and Chicago were the worst offenders, with Exit 310 off I-94 in the former seeing a 52-mile traffic jam last holiday season and Exit 293D off I-55 in the latter generating 16 miles of traffic.
Florida and Texas are the states to avoid in the South. The region’s longest bottleneck lasted 3 hours and 34 minutes in Key Largo, Florida, while the runner-up in Granbury, Texas clocked in at an hour and a half. But the region with the most horrendous traffic is the East by far. Last year, a line of cars leading to Exit 126 off I-95 in D.C. stretched 25.5 miles and took 4 hours and 26 minutes to disperse. The New York City area doesn’t fare much better with traffic jams on I-495 and the Belt Parkway both lasting close to 4 hours.
This data is representative of the week between December 23, 2015 and January 1, 2016, and as WIRED points out, may have been influenced by factors that don’t stay consistent year-to-year (weather, accidents, construction). But if you look at traffic data sampled from the rest of the year, there’s still a case to be made for steering clear of several of the cities on this list. A 2015 report from the American Highway Users Alliance pegged America's worst traffic problem area on Chicago’s I-90 near O'Hare International Airport between Roosevelt Road and North Nagle Avenue. The next six slots were all taken up by Los Angeles; the Lincoln Tunnel (which connects New Jersey and New York City) came in eighth.
With a record number of cars expected to hit the roads this holiday season, traveling will likely be a pain in these places and beyond. Perhaps there’s still time to convince the in-laws to come to you this year.