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.

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