A Guide to the Busiest Bottlenecks in Philadelphia

More than 300,000 people work in Center City, Philadelphia. That’s a lot of people hitting the roads once the closing whistle sounds each day. But while there are some stretches of road that clog only during the morning and evening commute (and usually only in one direction at a time), some stretches are congested throughout the day, in both directions. This can lead to frustrating delays costing time and money.

Unfortunately, based on your pickup location and destination, it may be impossible to avoid some of these areas of major congestion. I-76 in particular can be a tricky one to circumvent, and navigating a detour can take as much time as waiting in traffic does. But it’s helpful to manage your expectations on what to expect if you find yourself on one of these stretches.

Besides, you’re not a true Philadelphian unless you’ve complained about traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway at least once. Here are the busiest bottlenecks in Philadelphia, as measured by hours of delay:

The Schuylkill Expressway

The Schuylkill Expressway is the easternmost leg of I-76 that runs from King of Prussia to the Walt Whitman Bridge. While driving any length of this perpetually clogged highway is never a walk in the park, it’s the stretch from the Valley Forge Interchange of the Pennsylvania Turnpike to South Street that’s ranked among the worst 100 corridors in the entire nation. According to the 2105 INRIX Traffic Scorecard, the average US commuter spends 50 hours a year in traffic. Not surprising, the worst time to hit the road is at 5:00 on Friday afternoon. During this hour, you can expect to sit in traffic on average for 39 minutes.

Additionally, according to the American Highway Users Alliance, the bottleneck along the 0.8-mile stretch of I-76 from between City Avenue and Roosevelt Boulevard is particularly heinous, with 700,000 hours of commuter time collectively wasted a year sitting in traffic jams. This results in an annual $16 million in lost time and more than 25,000 gallons of gas wasted.

But count your blessings. Even these delays pale in comparison to the nation’s number one bottleneck. According to INRIX, America’s busiest bottleneck is on the Kennedy Expressway (I-90) outside of Chicago. Daily total delays along the most clogged stretch of the expressway add up to nearly 17 million hours a year.

The Vine Street Expressway

This is the segment of I-676 that serves as a major arterial highway through Center City. While you can expect a lot of traffic along the entire Center City corridor day and night, it’s the relatively short 0.3-mile stretch that runs from I-76 to 24th street that ranks among the most clogged bottlenecks in the nation. In fact, the American Highway Users Alliance found that 300,000 hours of commuters’ time were collectively wasted in delays in this small portion of the expressway. That’s over 100,000 gallons of fuel wasted, the study claims.

One of the major causes of this gridlock is capacity. The roads simply weren’t designed to handle the amount of traffic they see on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there’s no wise alternative to this portion of the Vine Street Expressway. Outside of the freeway, you’ll have to navigate mostly roadways that are shared with busses and bikes, as well as pedestrian crosswalks. Your best bet is to stay the path, and steel yourself for a slight delay.


Any list of the busiest bottlenecks in Philadelphia wouldn’t be complete without including I-95. This highway easily gets clogged during daily commutes and on game days, but according to the INRIX Traffic Scorecard, it’s the 8.14-mile stretch of I-95 from Cottman Avenue to Girard Avenue that easily sees the most delays on any given day. The report also found that the worst hour of the week is at 8:00am on Thursdays. During this hour, commuters sit in traffic for 26 minutes on average.

What can be done? According to the Federal Highway Administration, better lane management (such as HOV lanes) could potentially alleviate some of the nation’s worst traffic jams, saving drivers up to 30 seconds per mile. Unfortunately, HOV lanes are not in the cards for the immediate future for these busiest bottlenecks in Philly. We’ll just have to wait it out.

Photo credit: Jamesy Pena


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