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Car Culture

Homeowners Rail Against 405 Expansion

3_5_09_schwarzenegger.jpgA bi-partisan collection of officials celebrate the destruction of air quality around Encino

The Daily News printed a rare opinion piece yesterday that dared challenge the orthodoxy that adding lane capacity to the 405 is somehow going to improve quality of life for the people living near the widening area in Encino.  The I-405 widening project is one that the city hopes will receive stimulus funds and they have long argued that by encouraging carpooling you can better manage car growth because more people per car will lead to less cars.  Thus far, there has never been a study that has shown this to happen, but there is plenty of evidence that wider highways lead to more cars.

In the Daily News, Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino, argues that the city and state are dead wrong.  Instead of improving the environment, a wider 405 will lead to worse air quality and poor health for those living near it.

It is not reasonable to expect that residentsliving near the freeways should now be subjected to freeway expansioncausing more noise, congestion, glare and air pollution for theconvenience of commuters. At what point is enough is enough? After the405 Freeway is widened, and later winds up with the same congestedlanes, will people still say want to keep expanding and add even morecar-pool lanes?

People who live near the 405 Freeway are affectedby increased lung cancer rates due to automobile exhaust. Do driversthink it is OK to subject people to increased cancer rates for theircommuting convenience? 

Oh, lung cancer, shmung cancer.  People need to get home and they deserve a wide freeway!

All sarcasm aside, the problem with Silver's argument, is that California transportation officials still argue that increasing highway capacity is actually good for the environment.  The argument goes that more pollution is caused by cars sitting in congestion than cars moving quickly through less congested highways.  The idea that there is a latent demand to drive and that the wider highway will bring out more cars isn't something that California Highway officials recognize.

In other words, while Silver lives in reality and is going to have to live with the increased pollution a wider 405 will bring to Encino; highway officials and politicians can dismiss that argument because they still believe that wider highways are the environmentally sound way to build a transportation network.

Photo: Congressman Brad Sherman

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