Times Editorial: People That Object to Highway Projects Too Provincial, Victims of Bizarre Thoughts

sprawlcircle.jpgThe "bizarre" concept that highway expansion leads to sprawl and more traffic. Explained.

Today, the Los Angeles Times reaffirmed their support for "completing" the I-710 by tunneling for another four and a half miles to connect the freeway with Highway 134 and Interstate 210.  This is hardly the first time the Times has voiced concern for highway expansion, the local paper of record could double as the public relations arm of the AAA.

After a history lesson the Times digs into it’s rationale for expanding the I-710.  In short, drivers deserve congestion relief, they have for a long time, and the benefits of more highways vastly outweigh the negative repercussions.  Apparently the Times’ editorial board hasn’t noticed any of the ridiculous development patterns that have emerged in Southern California as an off-shoot of our car-culture.  There is a caveat, the Times doesn’t want to see a tunnel built for the connector until a group of Caltrans traffic engineers decide that they can do it and that the cost isn’t prohibitive.

And here’s the rub, the Times looks at the expansion project, whatever form it takes, and evaluates the "cost" of the project in the dollars and cents it costs to build.  The Times makes no reference to induced demand, sprawl development, air quality, or any of the other "secondary" impacts.  Are we really so far behind the planning curve that we can’t examine a highway project in terms of "does the promised congestion relief outweigh the impacts to residents?"  Have we learned so little from all of the promised "congestion relief" expansions that led to a couple of years of relief before things were worse than ever that our transportation and media leaders are unable to give a real-world examination of the true costs of highway expansion projects?

Actually, the Times does take a second dismiss concerns that expanding the 710 would create more traffic with a scoff and an eyeroll which actually calls into question whether anyone who worked on this piece has ever ridden on any of Southern California’s improved highways.

Most of the objections we’ve
heard so far are about traffic; residents fear that if the 710 is
completed, it will create congestion on the 210, especially as a result
of increased truck traffic from the port of Long Beach. But from a
regional standpoint, this is not a terribly persuasive argument against
the project. The notion that completing a freeway connection would
increase traffic is a bit bizarre; what it would do is redistribute
traffic, ending bottlenecks in some places and worsening them in
others. But the overall effect should be reduced congestion and less
pollution from idling vehicles. We understand the concerns on the part
of local residents, but we are obliged to look at the effect on the
broader community as well.

I love the "should’s" and "the notion is" and other weak language in this paragraph.  At the same time that the Times tries to minimze the concerns of others, the paper of record admits it doesn’t have a clue what the traffic impacts of the project would be.

Streetsblog is obliged to look at the "effect on the broader community" as well.  However, our definition of the broader community is "everyone that lives in Southern California;" while the Times’ seems to be drivers on the I-710, sprawl developers, and Caltrans employees who need these large, wasteful, road projects to keep their funding at current levels.

  • You lower the price of beets, more people buy beets.

    You lower the time cost of travel from A to B, more people travel from A and B.

    Induced demand isn’t always a bad thing. I’m looking forward to the induced demand effects of the Westside Subway Extension. There’s so much latent demand for rush hour travel between points on the subway that I think ridership will exceed projections rather quickly.

  • The solution to highway traffic congestion is pricing road space. It’s ridiculous to build new roads when that isn’t even being tried. Here we are giving something away for free (road space) and marveling at the fact that this free resource is being overused!

    Man, if movies were free I’d be in the theater all day.

    And don’t give me that reducing emissions from idling cars argument. If we really cared about that, we’d spend our chunk of 710 cash making sure that all cars were hybrids.

  • Wait a minute, you mean the same paper that devotes entire 40 page sections of its publication to selling cars and gives over–what I assume to be, though I could be wrong–unpaid space in the business section normally reserved for analysis to softcore porn like car reviews, you mean this same paper is in support of the 710 expansion??? Shocking!

  • For what it’s worth, the Times has been generally in favor of transportation construction projects, even going so far as to endorse Measure R and supporting subway and light rail projects in general.

    Their biggest fault is they don’t distinguish between anti-rail NIMBYs and anti-road NIMBYs.

  • Thank you, James. The people that are too provincial and are victims of bizarre thoughts include the people protesting additional rail construction, such as some of the residents of Cheviot Hills, Damien Goodmon and his “Fix Expo” group, and the useless idiots of the Bus Riders’ “Union.”

    As dumb as it sounds, the 710 should be completed and it is final missing piece in the freeway “puzzle,” even if we have to build a tunnel to get it done. Yes, it will increase truck traffic on the 210, but that should be done because the 210 is currently underused. If you live in La Canada or Flitridge, you’ll probably scream bloody murder at that statement, but I don’t, so, tough luck. It’s probably a fool’s errand to try and get that 710 built, but, it should be attempted.

  • Eric B

    There should be a distinction between “NIMBYs” who don’t want anything to change ever and people fighting the 710 for broader anti-road reasons. My arguments against the 710 have nothing to do with local traffic issues and everything to do with allocation of resources. For the billions of dollars we may spend on this, there are real opportunity costs in terms of alternative facilities we aren’t building. Subway to the Sea could be completed AND a Sepulveda Pass LRT connection built for probably about the same cost.

    There are plenty of very good reasons to complete the 710: gap closure, network distribution, mobility improvements, etc. But pro-710 groups shouldn’t claim it will ease congestion (long-term), reduce emissions, or any of the other million claims that road capacity somehow fixes our fundamental transportation problems.

    Build it, toll it, whatever, but we have to measure both the environmental/health/social costs AND the opportunity costs to get a full accounting and decide if it’s a good idea. I have yet to hear a debate that rises above local traffic on individual streets in the short term. There are some good road projects. We’ll only know if this is one if we actually measure these things (instead of just geological feasibility).

  • Nice article Damien – and v. cool graphic from NJDOT. Here, here to looking at cumulative impacts not just project costs and projections.

  • Sam

    As a Pasadena resident, I personally would like to see the 710 gap connector explored further. If it is feasible given all the environmental constraints, particularly the air quality issues, I think it is an important piece of the region’s broader multi-modal transportation network. It may also be one of the most attractive design-build-finance-operate projects out there. It could be built and financed by a private firm, and then operated under a concession agreement as a toll road.

    Please remember, not all traffic engineers follow the diagram posted on this page. Maybe just in New Jersey.

  • mpetrie98

    “It’s probably a fool’s errand to try and get that 710 built, but, it should be attempted.”

    I agree, but you can bet S. Pasadena will take it to court all over again.

  • Greg

    Hilarious New Jersey DOT graphic — of course their “wisdom” is the reason they have some of the worst congestion in the nation. Case in point, they demapped the critical I-95 link between Philadelphia and New York… anyone think the congestion that is forced to go on US 1 is a good thing?

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