Damn the Gas Prices, Full Road Widenings Ahead

Despite concerns from residents living adjacent to the highway that a highway widening of Route 57 would ruin their quality of life, officials from the Orange County Transportation Authority and Caltrans will not change their plan to widen five miles of highway in Orange County.  The transportation officials pushing the project argue that reducing congestion will improve air quality by reducing the amount of cars sitting in traffic.

The theory that you can build your way out of highway congestion has been debunked by advocates and DOT's throughout the country.  When capacity is added to a highway, the traffic lanes actually are filled up by new traffic in a matter of years because new sprawl development will lead to more traffic which will lead to calls to widen the highway again.  This is called induced demand, and is proven everyday in Southern California.  How have past highway widenings helped car commutes near where you live?

That OCTA and Caltrans are promoting a project that will increase the amount of traffic on Route 57 isn't the only thing that has locals so concerned.  Residents are also concerned that the widening will remove a sound wall which keep carbon particulates off their windows.  One resident tells the register:

"At first, I think people just dismissed it as adding a lane. But look into it and you see that it's adding a merging lane, too, would take down our sound wall and it's a health hazard," said Kevin Campion, a resident in the Glenbrook neighborhood near the 57 and Birch Street.

Campion said many residents already have to clean windowsills of dust particles and bits of tire rubber that waft in from the nearby freeway. They are worried about recent studies that indicate "nano particles" could pose a more serious risk to respiratory health than previously thought.

"We're worried about our health, and we don't want the freeway any closer to make it worse," Campion said.

Is there any further proof that Southern California needs a true revolution in the way we think about transportation?  Caltrans and the OCTA are basically spending $140 million to widen a highway in the name of clean air, and at the same time advocate for alternative transportation are fighting just to get High Speed Rail or a sales tax increase partially dedicated to transit on the fall ballot?

Photo: Orange County Register