Another concrete freeway gulch, another disputed outlay of tax money | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Another concrete freeway gulch, another disputed outlay of tax money

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2016 at 6:58 AM

IF ONLY THEY COULD BUILD MORE LANES: The 405 in California. A widening project hasn't improved conditions much.
  • IF ONLY THEY COULD BUILD MORE LANES: The 405 in California. A widening project hasn't improved conditions much.

I'd say copy this New York Times article to the state freeway building department but no point confusing them with facts in their push to widen the city-dividing concrete gulch of Interstate 30 through downtown Little Rock.

It's about a six-year, $1.6 billion widening of the 405 freeway through sprawling Los Angeles. The work is done. All better?

“In the long term, it will make no difference to the traffic pattern,” said Marcia Hobbs, who has lived her whole life in Bel Air. “I haven’t noticed substantial cutbacks in traffic. As a matter of fact, I would say it was the opposite.”
Some facts:

Peak afternoon traffic time has indeed decreased to five hours from seven hours’ duration (yes, you read that right) and overall traffic capacity has increased. But congestion is as bad — even worse — during the busiest rush hours of 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., according to a study by the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
It's called induced demand. Cooler heads have said the conservatively estimated $600 million 30 Gulch project will create still more demand for still wider freeways at newly created chokepoints and funnel more traffic into an area that, in truth, is really busy for only a relatively small morning and afternoon window on business days. But damn them. Pour the concrete!

Spend now, regret later That is happening in Los Angeles, though some defend the project  — as 30 Gulch defenders defend our looming project — as making the road safer, if still clogged. And some suburban commuters (think Cabot, Bryant, Conway, Benton) praise the saving of a few minutes of commuting time. Still:

Zev Yaroslavsky, a former member of both the county Board of Supervisors and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the work “made a difference on a number of fronts,” but he called it “the most disruptive project” he had seen during his 40 years in public life here.

“I doubt the project would have been undertaken in the first place if we’d known it would cost $1.6 billion,” said Mr. Yaroslavsky, whose district includes the Sepulveda Pass. “There’s a lot of bad taste in my mouth about this. There were mistakes made all around. It was a nightmare of a project.”
The article notes a parallel with Little Rock criticism of 30 Gulch:

.. improving the capacity of a highway tends to encourage more people to use it instead of, say, making their way across the pass on local streets.

“If you go out there at 5 p.m. on a Friday and look at the delay, anyone in my business could have told you that adding the capacity that they added to the corridor would have little or no effect on delays during that period,” Brian D. Taylor, the director of U.C.L.A.’s Institute of Traffic Studies, said.

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