WE NEED MORE FREEWAYS by Ed Ring
Everyone seems to agree mass transit is the solution to everything. But what the mass transit advocates don’t tell you is that our freeways don’t have to be clogged up all the time, and that they are deliberately neglecting freeway upgrades while they pour money into mass transit that doesn’t work. Light rail only works in very high density urban centers, and if the anti-freeway people have their way in California, you are going to be “in-filled” into a world of high rises and stucco canyons.
Let’s not go any further without noting the cause of congestion is not freeways. That’s right. You heard that right. The anti-freeway folks have got us thinking freeways CAUSE congestion. They say the more roads we build, the more “bad development” occurs, and the more cars get stuck on the freeway. This is nonsense - population growth causes congestion, and more freeways alleviates congestion.
During America’s great freeway building boom of the 1960’s, the older and larger urban centers of America got plenty of freeways. Urban planners back then hadn’t faced the mighty anti-freeway coalition, and common sense prevailed. Freeways were blasted through the hearts of these cities, and a building boom ensued. Today, thanks to freeways, great suburbs with big lots (instead of postage stamp-sized lots) were built, and Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area were born as great cities of the world.
Later in the 1980’s and the 1990’s the freeway building boom wound down, but the population of California kept growing. Between 1960, when the freeway programs were being implemented, and 2005, the population of California has increased from 15 million to 35 million people. And for this reason, cities that grew primarily during the 1960’s and 1970’s have good freeway systems, and cities like Sacramento do not.
If you wait in your car for hours each day, barely moving, in one of three meager northbound lanes on Interstate 5, trying to make it in to Sacramento, remember this - there should be at least five northbound lanes in that area. When you sit on Sunrise Blvd. trying to go north anywhere near Highway 50 at 6 p.m., remember this - there should be at least four northbound lanes in that area, and Bradshaw Road needs to be extended northwards to I-80 via a new eight lane bridge over the American River. Those are a few examples.
To connect the San Francisco Bay Area to California’s Central Valley, another freeway, at least eight lanes, needs to be built connecting Interstate 680 to Interstate 5. And interstate 580 over the Altamont Pass needs to be widened to at least ten lanes. This is what needs to be done.
Within a few years California will have 40 million people living with a freeway system designed for a state with 20 million people. That’s the hard fact, and pretending the car is going to go away, or that shoppers in the exurbs are going to take light rail to the grocery store, is complete nonsense. We need more freeways.
Anti-freeway fanatics believe more freeways cause congestion. They are wrong. Population growth causes congestion. Why don’t they advocate putting a fence around the Nevada and Oregon borders, in addition to the Mexican border, and then implement a “one-child” plan like the Chinese did? Who knows, maybe by 2150 we could get our population down to 20 million, and have unclogged freeways.
Along with building more freeways and adding more lanes to freeways, we need to get rid of car pool lanes. First of all, they are discriminatory - anyone on an urgent errand or who is on-call can’t arrange for a car pool partner. But equally important, car pool lanes don’t reduce congestion, they cause congestion. Just when freeways need the most lanes, they are choked off and less flow occurs.
While we’re at it, enough already with fighting developers. It is ridiculous that a home should cost a half-million dollars on a tiny piece of land in California’s Central Valley. Instead of high density infill - which ruins city neighborhoods and causes traffic congestion - we need more low density sprawling suburbs interlaced generously with greenbelts, freeways, expressways and ranchettes. We have totally green homes just around the corner, that produce energy and process water efficiently. We have totally green cars practically here already, ultra-low emission cars, clean diesel cars, flex fuel cars, and battery-assisted cars. Homes and cars won’t hurt the environment, so what’s the beef with suburban sprawl if it’s done tastefully?
Gentlemen, get out the bulldozers. Unclog the roads and recreate the California nation.
Ed "Redwood" Ring is the Editor of the Sacramento based website www.ecoworld.com, an online environmental magazine, as well as www.ecoworld.net which offers analysis and commentary on environmental topics.