Since local political leaders couldn’t be bothered to attend Saturday’s public session by Improve 30 Crossing on the proposed concrete gulch through downtown Little Rock, here’s some take-home reading from Strong Towns about the folly of freeway expansions and some better ideas in other major cities — Dallas, Houston, Louisville and Rochester.
The writer is trying to discourage a freeway expansion in Portland. Why?
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Economists now talk about the “Fundamental Law of Road Congestion“–each incremental increase in highway capacity generates a proportionate increase in traffic, with the effect that congestion quickly rebounds to previous levels–accompanied by more suburbanization, longer trips and increased pollution. As it contemplates spending upwards of a billion dollars on three proposed freeway-widening projects, Portland might want to spend a little time looking at what’s been learned in other cities around the country.
(And this doesn’t even consider the weirdness in Little Rock — spending $1 billion to lessen congestion that’s only a brief problem a few minutes twice a day on work days.)
Houston? Multi-billion-dollar expansions have only increased the morning commute.
Dallas? It woke up. It’s scrapping a tollway to build a park.
Louisville? The lesson is that putting tolls on roads BEFORE expanding them reduces demand and saves the need for the new cost.
Rochester? It took out a city-damaging freeway.
These lessons from other cities should tell Portland’s leaders that freeway widening projects like the proposed Rose Quarter expansion are ineffective, costly, unnecessary, and out of date.
Mail it to your mayor, city director/alderman, county judge, highway commissioner.