The Most Congested Roads in Tennessee

Tennessee draws millions of visitors annually with its captivating landscapes, musical legacy, and cultural richness. However, it grapples with substantial traffic congestion, particularly in major urban hubs like Nashville, Memphis, and Chattanooga.

This congestion not only squanders time and financial resources but also adversely impacts the environment and the well-being of residents and travelers. A recent study by the American Transportation Research Institute pinpointed six locations in Tennessee among the top 100 worst bottlenecks for trucks in the U.S.

Study Identifying Tennessee’s Most Congested Roads

The study, titled “ATRI’s Top Truck Bottleneck List 2021,” analyzed GPS data from over a million freight trucks at 300 locations nationwide. It gauged congestion by comparing average speeds and peak hour speeds against free-flow speeds. Truck speed reduction, the percentage of speed lost due to congestion, determined the rankings. The study identified six locations in Tennessee with truck speed reductions exceeding 20%, earning them spots among the nation’s worst bottlenecks.

  1. Chattanooga: I-75 at I-24 (Ranked 7th)
  2. Nashville: I-24/I-40 at I-440 (East) (Ranked 13th)
  3. Nashville: I-40 at I-65 (East) (Ranked 35th)
  4. Chattanooga: I-24 at US 27 (Ranked 53rd)
  5. Nashville: I-65 at I-24 (Ranked 77th)
  6. Nashville: I-65 at SR 386 (Ranked 88th)

These locations contributed to a total of 2.8 million hours of delay and incurred a cost of $49.6 million for the trucking industry in 2020.

Significance of Congestion in Tennessee

The impact extends beyond the trucking industry, affecting the state and the nation. The trucking sector is integral to the economy, supporting various industries and contributing significantly to GDP and tax revenues. However, traffic congestion hampers efficiency, increases operating costs, and elevates emissions. It jeopardizes safety and reliability, raising the risk of accidents and delays.

Moreover, congestion diminishes the quality of life for Tennessee residents and travelers. It breeds frustration, stress, and impedes the time and financial resources available for other activities. The environmental and health repercussions are profound, with increased fuel consumption and emissions contributing to climate change and respiratory diseases. Additionally, congestion hinders accessibility, mobility, and opportunities for education, employment, and recreation.

Strategies to Alleviate Congestion and Enhance Transportation

Addressing congestion on Tennessee’s roads demands a multifaceted approach involving collaboration from government, industry, and the public. The study suggests strategies to alleviate congestion and improve transportation:

  1. Investing in Infrastructure and Technology: Expand and enhance road and bridge capacity, integrating smart systems like traffic signals, cameras, sensors, and tolls to monitor and manage traffic flow.
  2. Enhancing Planning and Coordination: Improve traffic data analysis, update patterns and trends, and implement effective policies such as congestion pricing, truck-only lanes, and optimized truck parking.
  3. Promoting Alternatives and Options: Encourage alternative transportation modes (rail, water, air, pipeline), and incentivize the adoption of sustainable technologies like electric and autonomous vehicles, along with freight consolidation and optimization.


Tennessee faces a significant challenge with congestion, impacting its economy, society, and environment. The study provides valuable insights into the worst bottlenecks and the broader consequences of traffic congestion. To overcome these challenges, proactive measures are crucial. The solutions proposed in the study require leadership, collaboration, and action from Tennessee’s residents and stakeholders. It is a collective responsibility to steer the state and the nation towards a more efficient, safe, and sustainable transportation system.

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