How Much Does a Traffic Study Cost?

How Much Does a Traffic Study Cost?

What is a traffic study and what are its purposes?

A traffic study is a study carried out by a traffic engineer that collects and analyzes data regarding traffic patterns. The traffic engineer will create a report with the study’s findings, which will then be used by entities like the government, developers, and communities to understand foot and vehicle traffic better. It’s important for these studies to be conducted so that major decisions regarding zoning and permits can be made while keeping in mind what’s best for the community. How much does a traffic study cost? We will answer this question and more in this comprehensive guide.

Purpose of a Traffic Study

One purpose of traffic studies is to figure out the possible impacts of a development or other changes to the area on local traffic. The traffic engineer will study local traffic patterns and make educated predictions on how these patterns will be affected by whatever changes are proposed to the area.

Another purpose of traffic studies is to study an area that has major traffic issues to gain a better understanding of the root of the problem, then propose solutions that will help alleviate the burden on the area’s traffic. In this scenario, a traffic study can aid in making a community safer by focusing on accident-prone areas and finding a way to lower the risk in them.  

How much does a traffic study cost and who pays for it?

For a number of reasons, it’s hard to find an average cost for traffic studies. The price of a traffic study hinges on factors like locations and deadlines. Some traffic studies are only a few thousand dollars. Others can cost over a hundred thousand dollars.

The average cost of a traffic study

A typical guideline suggests a cost of a traffic study is $3,500 per intersection. However, this cost can vary, ranging from $2,500 to $5,000 when dealing with three or more intersections. In one exceptional instance, it reached $13,000 for a single intersection within a substantial multi-phase development project. These simplified traffic impact studies involve traffic operational analyses, as previously mentioned.

Who Pays for a Traffic Study?

Who pays for a traffic study is another complicated issue that doesn’t have a typical answer. Some might believe that whoever has the idea or need for a traffic study is who will pay for it, but that’s not always the case. For instance, if a developer wants to build in a city, the city might require a traffic study to be conducted beforehand. This doesn’t necessarily mean the city is going to pay for it. Sometimes they will, having a budget for this kind of thing that comes out of their tax revenue, meaning the community taxpayers will technically pay for the traffic study via the government. Other times, despite the government requiring the traffic study, it’ll be up to the developer to cover the bill. This is just one of many examples in which the person footing the bill is a complicated decision that needs to be made by all parties involved.  

What factors influence the cost of a traffic study?

Multiple factors influence the cost of a traffic study. The following are just a few of the major factors:


In a typical traffic study, each intersection involved in the area being evaluated is going to ramp up the study’s costs. For some traffic study groups, they will increase the cost of the study by a few thousand dollars per intersection involved. This is partly because the more intersections mean the more area the study is going to cover. Also, intersections provide complications that are harder for a traffic engineer to navigate, such as heavier traffic.  

Time of Year:

The time of year the traffic study is conducted is another major factor that affects the cost of a traffic study. This is partly because some traffic study firms will charge more money during their busier months while requiring smaller fees during their months when business is slower.

Another reason for costs fluctuating over the course of a year is because of weather. Not only do some firms charge more during poor weather, as they will need to pay their engineers more to deal with the weather, but poor weather also creates delays that will extend the project and drive up costs.

Finally, the time of year is tied in with what major holidays and area events will be occurring at the time. This will create delays as well as affect the traffic patterns the traffic engineers are there to study.

Low Access:

Costs will go up if the area being studied is more difficult for the traffic engineer to access. Whether this low access is due to the area being oversized or to complications like private property or protected lands, anything that will make the traffic engineer’s job more challenging is going to raise costs.

What are some things to keep in mind when budgeting for a traffic study?

It’s clear that traffic studies can become rather costly, especially if they are performed at a bad time of year or involve a complicated area with multiple intersections or low access.

The most important thing to keep in mind when budgeting for a traffic study is that the money you spend on your traffic study will save you money down the road. For example, if you’re a developer paying for a traffic study required before you can build, it might feel like a hard hit at first. Keep in mind that once the study is over and your development is built, you’ll be glad that you spent the initial money to get things rolling.

Another example of the cost being worth it is for a community’s taxes to go toward a traffic study. Though it may seem like a big hit to the tax-funded budget, changes to an area that comes out of a traffic study are often extremely beneficial to the community. Whether this benefit is saving lives or making the community money through a new development in the area, the traffic study costs end up being worth it.

With this importance in mind, there are still other things to keep in mind when budgeting for a traffic study. These are basically the same as the things that affect traffic study costs. You’ll want to look ahead at what time of year you’ll be doing the study as well as what type of area the study will be performed in. You’ll also want to make sure you leave some breathing room in your budget to allow for fluctuating costs from unforeseen delays.

How can you save money on a traffic study without compromising quality or accuracy?

Despite understanding that the cost of a traffic study is worth it in the long run, it is still normal to want to try to save money. Of course, no one wants to sacrifice the quality or accuracy of their study to save a few dollars. So, how do you balance money with a satisfactory traffic study performance?

First, do your homework. Look into other traffic studies conducted in the region, especially any traffic studies that may have been performed close to the area you will be requesting to be studied. This can give you a better idea of what to expect as well as provide you with data to compare so you can see what firms perform the best, perform the fastest, and perform for the smallest amount of money.

Second, ask around. When looking at a major project ahead with a long, complicated process, it’s easy to want to cut corners. Once you find an individual traffic engineer or a firm with traffic engineers, you might want to dive in and get the process started with them. This would be a mistake. Put in the extra time and effort to look around at options for who can perform your study and find the best fit for your project. Don’t be afraid to ask for quotes from multiple places. If there is heavy competition in the area, you might even be able to negotiate prices or solidify a hard deadline that won’t allow for extra charges even if delays push the project past it.