Seattle Traffic – Can it really get worse?

The U.S. is choking on its traffic and it’s going to get worse

The United States is choking on its traffic, with the average driver losing 42 hours a year in the bumper-to-bumper grind and a drain on the economy costing $160 billion, according to a new report.

The report to be released Wednesday shows that traffic delays in most parts of the country have bounced back to pre-recession levels. That undermines the hope that three trends — telecommuting, the movement of people back to cities and a decline in millennials seeking driver’s licenses — might provide an antidote to congestion.

And with the U.S. population projected to grow by 70 million in the next three decades, there is little chance that the transportation network can keep pace with that growth or alleviate the current crush. In other words, it’s going to get worse.

“If you look at corridors like the Capital Beltway, it’s going to be hard to figure out how you scale up to make it accommodate another million people, 20 or 25 percent more travel demand,” said Tim Lomax, co-author of a joint report by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and the traffic monitoring firm Inrix. “We need to figure out how to use our existing capacity smarter.”

The report arrives five days after the U.S. Transportation Department said that Americans drove a record 1.54 trillion miles in the first half of this year, topping the 1.5 trillion miles driven in 2007.

On the United States’ 10 most-congested highways — six are in Los Angeles, and Chicago and New York have two each — drivers sacrifice an annual average of 84 hours caught in gridlock, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute-Inrix report says.

When calculated by urban region, Washington ranks worst, with 82 hours of delay per driver. Los Angeles, with drivers delayed 80 hours per year; San Francisco (78); New York (74); and San Jose (67) fill out the top five.

But congestion is no longer a distinctly urban phenomenon. The report said that drivers in midsize cities were delayed in traffic only slightly less than the 42-hour national average, and small-city backups cost drivers in those areas 30 hours a year.

Total the numbers and, the report says, Americans spend 6.9 billion hours battling traffic and burn 3.1 billion gallons of fuel while nudging inch by inch down the roadway.

It’s also more than rush-hour headaches for workaday commuters. When considering the vagaries of traffic — bad weather, collisions and construction zones — for a trip at any time of day, drivers need to allot an average of 48 minutes for a trip that would take 20 minutes in light traffic.

“One of the strategies we point to is, have some realistic expectations,” Lomax said. “If you live in Washington, D.C., for example, and you don’t think you’re going to encounter traffic congestion on the way to work, you must work the night shift.”

Although he said it was too early to say whether the millennial generation will rethink its dedication to the urban lifestyle, Lomax says there are inklings.

“Some of what we may be seeing as the economy recovers is that many of these millennials aren’t so different from their parents,” he said. “They have an economic reason to not buy a car and live relatively close to where they work. When those hard times start to go away, the behavior begins to look a whole lot more like everybody else.”

Lomax sees another congestion challenge in the creation of planned satellite urban hubs around big cities.

“You see the jobs sort of chasing the workers out into the suburbs,” he said, citing the development of Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia. “The people who developed Tysons thought, ‘Oh, well, let’s move out to where the houses are.’ Now you see people commuting really long distances into Tysons Corner. The houses just went farther out” into suburbia.

In addition to losing 82 hours a year to traffic congestion, drivers in the Washington region burn more than 88 million gallons of fuel stuck in traffic. For a must-make-it appointment, the region’s drivers need to allow 35 minutes for a trip that would take 10 minutes if there are no backups.

“Some of this is individuals taking some responsibility for knowing their options and figuring out how to plan around stuff,” Lomax said, “and their employers offering options that still work for the business but make that commuting experience less onerous for their employees.”

That balm for the irritation of traffic will come from technology, he said.

“The ability of the car to sense that it’s going to hit the car in front of it,” he said. “That kind of technology can help the Capital Beltway handle more cars.”

But it’s greater integration of traffic-monitoring apps into vehicles that will take the next leap forward.

“You can also take that same kind of information stream and turn it into something that helps people understand that there’s a crash six miles up ahead, here are the options,” he said. “Maybe that helps you to understand that transit is a better option, rather than have the car shove you toward the Beltway on a big accident day.”

He foresees a day when information about the daily commute will feed into a home computer calendar a few minutes before the alarm clock rings.

“Say you’re commuting in from Manassas: Your computer looks at your calendar, sees that it’s a regular commute day and that the weather’s going to be terrible so traffic is going to be bad, and there’s already been a big crash on I-66,” he said. “So, your computer goes out and finds the VRE train schedule and the bus schedule, and here’s the Metrorail schedule and where it drops you off. So, at 5:45, you’re shaved and showered and your computer presents you with your travel options for today.”

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.

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Blue Angels Traffic Update

Multiple closures required for Seafair Air Show practice

SEATTLE – As the U.S. Navy Blue Angels zoom above Lake Washington this week, drivers in the greater Seattle and Bellevue areas should prepare for traffic to slow to a crawl several times between Thursday, July 30, and Sunday, Aug. 2, and consider alternate routes.
The Washington State Department of Transportation is required by the Federal Aviation Administration to close the Interstate 90 floating bridge five times to drivers, cyclists and pedestrians while the Blue Angels practice for and perform at the Seafair Air Show. The closures are to keep the public and pilots safe and to minimize distractions.
The closures will extend from Interstate 5 in Seattle to Island Crest Way on Mercer Island. Certain I-90 and I-5 ramps will also close 30 minutes to one hour before flight times. Drivers who need to cross Lake Washington should plan to do so at least one hour before the closures or use an alternate route, such as Interstate 405, State Route 520 or State Route 522.
I-90 floating bridge closures
  • Thursday, July 30: 9:45 a.m. to noon and 1:15 to 2:40 p.m. (practice)
  • Friday, July 31: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (practice)
  • Saturday, Aug. 1: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (Seafair Air Show)
  • Sunday, Aug. 2: 11:50 to 2:40 p.m. (Seafair Air Show)
Ramp closures
  • Northbound I-5 to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Southbound I-5 to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Northbound Rainier Avenue South to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Southbound Rainier Avenue South to eastbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • Eastbound I-90 to West Mercer Way (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • East Mercer Way to westbound I-90 (up to one hour prior)
  • Island Crest Way to westbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • 76th Avenue Southeast to westbound I-90 (up to 30 minutes prior)
  • West Mercer Way to westbound I-90 (up to one hour prior)
SR 520 open during I-90 closures
During the I-90 closures, the SR 520 floating bridge will remain open to traffic and tolls will be collected according to the rate schedule. Infrequent users of the SR 520 bridge may want to consider setting up a short-term Good To Go! account for Seafair weekend.
In the Puget Sound area, drivers can get real-time traffic information on their phone with the WSDOT traffic app, by tracking the WSDOT traffic Twitter feed, and checking theWhat’s Happening Now page for detailed information.

My Newest listing – Pending in 8 hours!


This 2003 home in Kent was only active on the market for 8 hours.

I staged the home using the owner’s furniture, used professional photography and after aggressive marketing, I had 1 offer, over full price in 8 hours!


Ready to list your home with me?


Call me to schedule a listing consultation/appointment. (206) 954.1099

-Candice Oftebro – RE/MAX Junction

Home Buying 101: Step 1 – Get Pre-Approved

This is the first post in a series of posts that will take you through the process of buying a home.

1. Get Pre-Approved

Many buyers want to start seeing houses right away, before getting PreApproved. Most of them have great credit, good income to debt ratios, and no real reason to be denied for a loan. So, why is it important to visit with a lender first?

  • There are many other factors involved with a home loan from employment & job type to your tax returns. It is best to visit with them first to make sure there are no hiccups in the process.
  • They will also check to make sure the debts list under your name are actually yours (identity theft!).
  • If you will be using gift funds for your down payment, your lender will help you figure out exactly how it has to be done so there is no delay in processing your loan.
  • Many sellers require that there home is shown only to pre-approved buyers.
  • Make sure we are searching for homes that match your investment criteria so you are not disappointed by settling for a home too far below your means or falling in love with a home that is above your actual approval.

Check out the quick tips below.


Trust us on this one. Local lenders will often have more flexibility which is especially important if something goes awry. We provide our clients with a list of quality lenders who are honest, realistic and communicate well through the process. We will connect you with the best in the business locally.


86% of borrowers purchase within 10% of their maximum approval. We don’t necessarily encourage that if it puts a strain on your budget. It is more comfortable throughout the process if you aren’t maxed on downpayment and will be more comfortable after you close if you aren’t maxed on on monthly payments. This is the same advice your grandmother (and Dave Ramsey) would give you.


Once you are prepared and ready to go, it is important to keep your financial & job situation somewhat frozen until you buy. This ensures that your rate won’t change or that you wouldn’t be disqualified when they check everything a day or two before closing. Definitely don’t buy a new car or do anything that may alter your debt to income ratio. Less obvious items may be prepaying your movers or preorder furniture or appliances to have delivered.

Is It Better to Rent or Buy?

This is such a great tool. You will likely find buying is a much better decision. Decide for yourself!

The choice between buying a home and renting one is among the biggest financial decisions that many adults make. But the costs of buying are more varied and complicated than for renting, making it hard to tell which is a better deal. To help you answer this question, our calculator takes the most important costs associated with buying a house and computes the equivalent monthly rent.

“You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” Yogi Berra.

May was a good time for the housing sector, as several reports came in strong.

New Home Sales hit their highest level in seven years in May, rising 2.2 percent from April to an annualized rate of 546,000. April’s figures were also revised higher to 534,000. Sales of new single-family homes are up nearly 20 percent from May 2014! Existing Home Sales also rose 5.1 percent in May from April.

However, the economy overall isn’t batting as well, as the final reading for first quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) showed that economic growth contracted by 0.2 percent, though less severe than the -0.7 percent from the second reading. In addition, the negative reading for the quarter was the fifth time in the six-year recovery that the economy couldn’t produce at least an anemic reading of 1 percent.

Growth in the first quarter was stunted by a negative trade balance due to the stronger dollar, harsh weather and the West Coast port closing. And with inflation still tame, rest assured the Fed will be watching economic reports closely this summer, as they determine when to raise the benchmark Fed Funds Rate (the rate banks charge each other to lend money overnight).

Overseas, the uncertainty surrounding Greece continues. Mortgage Bonds reversed course and moved lower in recent days, in part because signs have pointed to a possible deal. This will be a key story to watch in the next week.

Home loan rates are near 2015 highs, but are still very close to historic lows. If I can answer any questions at all for you or your clients about a home purchase or refinance, please get in touch!



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