By Dom Nozzi
In an otherwise admirable Washington Post essay, E.J. Dionne [“Obama’s Manna”, op-ed, Dec. 5, 2008] informs us that there is “nothing wrong with spending on roads…” when it comes to a possible Federal stimulus package.
There is certainly nothing wrong with repairing roads. And yes, it is appropriate that stimulus spending be forward-thinking, rather than backward-looking, investments, as Dionne puts it.
Why, then, after several decades of ruinous failure in trying to build our way out of congestion, would anyone wanting to be “forward-thinking” even consider widening roads? (as is the case with a great many stimulus road projects)
It is now abundantly clear that road widening powerfully induces more sprawl, more car travel, more gasoline consumption, more traffic congestion, more loss of environmental quality, more governmental financial woe, more loss of quality of life, and more destruction of downtowns.
Given this colossal squandering of countless trillions of public dollars to worsen our communities, is there anything worse than spending stimulus dollars on road widening?
In an age of growing concern about Peak Oil, long-term sustainability, and global warming, the absolute last thing we should be doing is building bigger roads.
While transportation needs in America are so enormous that Federal stimulus is highly appropriate, dollars must be properly targeted. For starters, that means the stimulus should be directed to restoring the woeful national passenger rail system. And ending car welfare program by huge motorist subsidies for free use of roads and parking. We can also stimulate long-term sustainability and quality of life by correcting our 20th Century road widening binge. Namely, by engaging in a nation-wide road narrowing (“road dieting”) program.
Visit my urban design website read more about what I have to say on those topics. You can also schedule me to give a speech in your community about transportation and congestion, land use development and sprawl, and improving quality of life.
Or email me at: dom[AT]walkablestreets.com
My book, The Car is the Enemy of the City (WalkableStreets, 2010), can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/product/paperback/the-car-is-the-enemy-of-the-city/10905607
My book, Road to Ruin, can be purchased here:
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