By Frank McGurty
NEW YORK (Reuters) - The most-congested bottleneck for truck traffic in the United States is a suburban Atlanta intersection known as "Spaghetti Junction," where the average vehicle crawls at less than 20 mph during the peak of the afternoon rush, a new report shows.
For a second year in a row, the point where Interstate 285 merges with Interstate 85 North and numerous access roads northeast of Atlanta tops an annual list of traffic hot spots published by the American Transportation Research Institute.
The study, based on global positioning satellite (GPS) data from more than 600,000 vehicles, ranked the intersection of Interstate 95 with New Jersey Route 4 in Fort Lee at the approach to the George Washington Bridge as the second-worst bottleneck. The GWB is the world's busiest for motor vehicles, according to its operator, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
The GWB, which carries more than 106 million vehicles a year between New Jersey and New York City, was the backdrop for the "Bridgegate" traffic scandal that ensnared two associates of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie last year.
In a case that tarnished the reputation of the Republican governor, the pair were convicted of a scheme to choke traffic heading into the GWB as political payback to Fort Lee's mayor. Even though Christie was not charged, the affair damaged his popularity and may have helped scupper his presidential campaign.
The ATRI, which conducts research for the trucking industry, said this year's study was timely, coming as the administration of President Donald Trump sets its priorities in terms of increased infrastructure spending, one of his campaign promises.
"That is the value of an empirical study like this," Rebecca Brewster, president of the ATRI, said on Thursday. "It gives the people who making those decisions a really good resource."
Rounding out the top three bottlenecks was the so-called Byrne Interchange at the junction of Interstate 290 and Interstate 90/94 in downtown Chicago.
The bottleneck, which dropped a notch from the previous year, once topped the list, Brewster said, but a project to improve traffic flow appears to have eased congestion there.
In addition to nailing down the No. 1 spot, Atlanta had the dubious distinction of placing two other bottlenecks in the top 25.
Houston had four entries in the top 25, compared with just two for Los Angeles, a city with a reputation for jammed freeways.
(Editing by Alan Crosby)