Last Friday, local media outlets participated in a rally for the Sepulveda Pass Widening Project, that would widen the I-405 to connect carpool lanes between the I-10 and I-101, with Governor Schwarzenegger, Mayor Villaraigosa and various other union and public officials. Using an uncritical media to amplify their claims, our elected leadership promoted the largest road widening project to use stimulus funds as a Godsend to not just I-405 commuters, but also the environment, the economy and even alternative transportation.
Doing little more than copying press releases and recording public statements, the LA Times, Daily News, CBS and LA Now promoted the project and either didn’t ask or didn’t receive answers for the questions that would have challenged the local conventional wisdom that America Needs More Highways, even though we can’t maintain the ones we already have.
Instead of uncritically passing along the press release ready estimate that the project will save 7 million travel hours, the press should have asked questions such as:
Since other major road widening projects in the area are causing congestion during their construction, and because transportation agencies are reporting that additional highway capacity actually brings more cars to the road, are commuters going to see any net reduction in commuting time?
Governor, since you’re standing here promoting this project, should we assume that you’re going to guarantee that the state is going to supply $614 million passed by voters in bonds for the project so that it doesn’t lose the $200 million in federal dollars currently allocated?
Mayor, do you see any contradiction between your professed desire to get people out of single occupancy vehicles and your promotion of the largest freeway widening to receive stimulus funds? After all, this project is going to make it easier for single-occupancy vehicles to commute by removing other cars from the regular traffic lanes.
Any other questions I’m missing? Feel free to leave them in the comments section.