Questioning Obama’s Transpo Legacy as Fresno County Sprawls

By introducing new initiatives like the TIGER grant program, the Obama administration has been signaling that the car-is-king, slash-and-burn mentality that has dominated transportation policy since Eisenhower is coming to a close.

At the same time, however, the situation on the ground looks awfully familiar in much of America. As New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has amply demonstrated, all it takes is one guy in the wrong position to wreck a huge investment in transit. And with US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood touting recovery act projects, there are plenty of reminders that the stimulus bill is still funding business-as-usual when it comes to transportation. Network blog Systemic Failure brings us this case from Fresno County, penning a requiem for California’s State Route 180. The two-lane road is being expanded east of Fresno with federal stimulus dollars at the expense of the local farming community:

Work crews are using federal stimulus money to build a road through prime California farmland. Is this what progress on transportation looks like? ## Failure##

Fresno County is blasting a super highway through some of the most famous California agricultural land. Already, the old farmhouses are boarded up and/or demolished. The ‘For Sale’ signs are springing up, in preparation for the Fresno metropolitan area to sprawl 10 miles east.

Literally “a road-to-nowhere”, this 2-lane highway runs through very remote orchard and ranch land, before heading up into the Sierras and dead-ending at Roads End in Kings Canyon National Park. This project was funded through the American Recovery Act (“stimulus” dollars). Unless the Obama Administration makes radical shifts in its transportation priorities, auto bailouts and sprawl highways will be its legacy.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Publicola details how public education on bicycle and pedestrian safety helped reduce driving by 15 percent in Bellingham, Washington. World Changing outlines Philadelphia’s plan to capture the energy released by breaking subway trains for sale and internal use. And The City Fix analyzes the spatial distribution of bike sharing stations in Europe and the United States, in context of Washington D.C.’s new Capital Bikeshare.

  • Ive mentioned this project a few times on this blog before.

    It’s an epic waste of money, it is designed to encourage sprawl, and it will destroy some of the best farmland in the country. I take that route to get to Kings Canyon national park. One must only look at google streetview to see that the 4 lane highway will connect nothing with nothing. At least now. In 20 years, it will all be sprawled out subdivisions.

    And at the same time, Fresno insists that they can’t pull together 8 million to create a BRT route.

  • Scott Zwartz

    These projects need to be assessed on an individual basis.

    There are some City Watch articles about the advent of Virtual Presence, which basically the same as Cisco’s TelePresence. The 30/10 plan to construct more fixed-rail an plans to construct more freeways is being compressed into 10 years for a reason — and it is not a good reason. within ten years, the amount of freeway demand and demand for fixed-rail transit (subways in urban areas) will drop by 30% or more. Thus, the multi-billion dollars corporations behind highway construction, fixed-rail construction, and high density housing are desperate to suck every dollar out of the taxpayers before it becomes obvious that we do not need one more foot of pavement, we do not need to dig any more holes in the earth for multi-billion subways, and there is no need for high density housing.

  • Linn

    Before you place the blame for this project on the Obama administration and Recovery Acts, you should do a better job of researching the project. The widening of HWY 180 has been in the works for years and was planned to start in 2010 prior to Obama even being elected. But since Caltrans want to tout this as creating new jobs and part of economic recovery they but that info on their signs.

    A project of this size does not magically happen just cause money comes from the sky. Have you ever heard of CEQA and NEPA. They take years to complete for a project of this size and if you had just done a little research I sure you would have realized that this was planned for years. Not to mention how many years the highway ended after Clovis Ave and traffic was shuttled onto Clovis Ave and Kings Canyon Rd.

    While Obama maybe an easy scapegoat for a project you don’t like. In this case you got it wrong.

  • Scott Zwartz

    Sometimes money does fall from the sky as happened with LA and the approval of the Crenshaw line of the subway. LA just got 1/2 Billion dollars.

    The real purpose of the Subway is to justify the destruction of the minority residential neighborhoods along the subway. Subways cost a lot to operate and they require a huge ridership — and LA is too low density to provide the necessary ridership. Thus, all LA subways come with plans to destroy the R-1 areas in order to mega-densify that part of the City to crowd in more and more people


How Urban Areas Get Stiffed on Transportation Spending

Today on the Streetsblog Network, a post from Aaron Renn on New Geography about the anti-urban bias in transportation spending. Renn points out that when it comes to the amount of taxes they contribute and the amount of funds they get back from the government, the nation’s cities all too often get the short end […]

A University Built Around the Car Sees the Light

Fresno State University was, until very recently, your prototypical car commuting school. The school began as an isolated agricultural institution and is still connected to a large university farm. Its transportation services haven’t extended much beyond subsidized parking. But over time, writes James Sinclair at Streetsblog Network member Stop and Move, the area around Fresno State became more […]

A Proposal: Stimulus for Passenger Rail in Montana

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we turn to member blog Trains for America, which looks at the idea of using  stimulus funds to bring rail-equipment manufacturing — and expanded passenger rail service — to the state of Montana: Photo by Katie via Flickr. [N]ew rail passenger equipment is coming to America and it should be […]

Call This Morning to Secure More Transit Money in Stimulus

Last night Jerrold Nadler’s stimulus bill amendment, which would add $3 billion for transit, cleared the House Rules Committee. The full House may vote on the amendment by noon today, so the sooner you call your representative the better. Transportation for America sends along some key points to make in your phone call: In the […]