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For the Junction, a dubious honor

Tampa's Malfunction Junction, where I-4 and I-275 meet, ranks as the 16th worst traffic bottleneck in America.

Published February 20, 2004

[Times photo: Mike Pease]
Tampa Bay's 10 News video: (56k | High-Speed)
Ode to a road
It surely comes as no surprise
That experts both renowned and wise
Have found that as our crossroads go
One of the worst we'll ever know
Amid our borders, high and low,
Doesn't work in form or function
And goes by the name, Malfunction Junction.

Each year its victims wait in line
Fourteen-million hours in time
Wasted, trying to find a groove
Through which a car can slowly move
Drivers know it's never smooth.
And so they curse with oily unction
The highways called Malfunction Junction.

As bottlenecks go across the nation,
And this is no cause for mass elation,
Tampa is only the sixteenth worst.
Los Angeles is far more cursed.
Its bottlenecks are listed first.
So we press on with heart and gumption
Through the maze of Malfunction Junction.
—Jean Heller

TAMPA - As fame goes, it probably will be fleeting.

And that's a good thing.

Tampa's infamous Malfunction Junction, the confluence of Interstates 4 and 275, has been designated the 16th worst traffic bottleneck in the nation, behind such notably traffic-clogged cities as Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta, Phoenix and Washington, D.C.

The report by Cambridge Systematics Inc. of Cambridge, Mass., was commissioned by the American Highway Users Alliance, a Washington-based lobbying group that advocates for increased highway spending.

When the same bottleneck study was done in 1999, Malfunction Junction wasn't bad enough to make the cut. When the study is updated in 2009, the interchange probably won't make it again because the nearly $80-million upgrade of the interchange is scheduled to be completed in 2006.

In the meantime, the Cambridge study concludes that Tampa Bay drivers deserve national recognition for spending nearly 14.4-million hours a year waiting behind the wheel at Malfunction Junction.

"I've always been hesitant about talking about time wasted in traffic," said Phil Winters of the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research. "Given cell phones and the fact that people can conduct business while they're stuck in traffic, or they can listen to books on tape, I don't really consider all that time wasted."

The purpose of the study is to advance the agenda of the Highway Users Alliance, which is pressing Congress to pass a larger highway-mass transit bill than President Bush wants.

Bush has proposed $256-billion over six years, but the Senate has passed a $318-billion bill, and the House will soon consider a $375-billion proposal. The current six-year highway spending bill will expire at the end of this month.

Last year, Congress chose not to take up a six-year highway bill and passed a stop-gap spending measure, which expired Oct. 1 and was extended with a continuing resolution that provided the same amount of spending as the year before. Congress could pass another one-year measure.

But that's unlikely to affect the improvements to Malfunction Junction because most of those costs have been funded.

For anyone planning to visit Los Angeles soon, the worst bottleneck in the country, according to the Alliance, can be found on the Ventura Freeway at Interstate 405. Motorists there spend more than 27-million hours a year stuck in traffic.

The 24 worst highway bottlenecks, followed by the number of vehicles handled daily and annual hours of delay, according to a study by American Highway Users Alliance:

  • LOS ANGELES: Ventura Freeway US-101 at I-405 interchange; 318,000 cars; 27.1-million hours
  • HOUSTON: I-610 at I-10 interchange; 295,000 cars; 25.2-million hours
  • CHICAGO: I-90/94 at I-290 "Circle Interchange;" 293,671 cars; 25.1-million hours
  • PHOENIX: I-10 at SR-51/202 "Mini-Stack" interchange; 280,800 cars; 22.8-million hours
  • LOS ANGELES: I-405 at I-10 interchange; 296,000 cars; 22.8-million hours
  • ATLANTA: I-75 at I-85 interchange; 259,128 cars; 21-million hours
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.: I-495 at I-270 interchange; 243,425 cars; 19.4-million hours
  • LOS ANGELES: I-10 at I-5 interchange; 318,500 cars; 18.6-million hours
  • LOS ANGELES: I-405 at I-605 interchange; 318,000 cars; 18.6-million hours
  • ATLANTA: I-285 at I-85 "Spaghetti Junction" interchange; 266,000 cars; 17.1-million hours
  • CHICAGO: I-94 at I-90 interchange; 260,403 cars; 16.7-million hours
  • PHOENIX: I-17 at I-10 "the Stack" interchange to Cactus Road; 208,000 cars; 16.3-million hours
  • LOS ANGELES: I-5 at SR-22/57 "Orange Crush" interchange; 308,000 cars; 16.3-million hours
  • PROVIDENCE, R.I.: I-95 at I-195 interchange; 256,000 cars; 15.3-million hours
  • WASHINGTON, D.C.: I-495 at I-95 interchange; 185,125 cars; 15-million hours
  • TAMPA: I-275 at I-4 "Malfunction Junction" interchange; 201,500 cars; 14.4-million.
  • ATLANTA: I-285 and I-75 interchange; 239,193 cars; 14.3-million hours
  • SEATTLE: I-5 and I-90 interchange; 301,112 cars; 14.3-million hours
  • CHICAGO: I-290 Eisenhower Expressway between exits 17b and 23a; 200,441 cars; 14-million hours
  • HOUSTON: I-45 Gulf Freeway at US-59 interchange; 250,299 cars; 13.9-million hours
  • SAN JOSE, CALIF.: US-101 at I-880 interchange; 244,000 cars; 12.2-million hours
  • LAS VEGAS: US-95 at I-15 "Spaghetti Bowl" interchange; 190,600 cars; 11.2-million hours
  • SAN DIEGO: I-805 at I-15 interchange; 238,000 cars; 11-million hours
  • CINCINNATI: I-75 from Ohio River Bridge to I-71 interchange; 136,013 cars; 10-million hours
- Associated Press

[Last modified February 20, 2004, 10:00:43]

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