Of course, I could have told you that. Highways are bad for communities, bad for the environment, destroy sensible urban planning, dangerous, and create a bizarre and cold culture (I’ve never met a friend or a date on a highway, while I have met many on buses and trains). But Westneat puts it into a different perspective:
Here is a tale of two local megaprojects.
Both cost $11 billion. Both take 20 years to build. Both will help people move around the region. The first I’ll call Project A. It is widely praised, considered a no-brainer. Now and then an environmentalist squawks about it, but nobody listens.
Project B is the object of much ridicule. It is called a waste, a boondoggle. A P-I columnist dubbed it an “8-foot-tall steaming pile of elephant dung.” Another P-I column said the pile is 10 feet high.
So what would Project A and Project B actually do? Both would transport people along a corridor. So how many people would each move?
Project A, the no-brainer, will carry an additional 110,000 people daily over its 30 miles by the year 2030, according to its planners.
Project B, the wasteful one, will carry an additional 180,000 people per day over its 50 miles by the year 2030.
So … the boondoggle will transport more people? For the same construction cost?
So it goes in the upside-down world of our transportation debate, circa 2007.
Project A is the widening of the Eastside’s Interstate 405. The plan is to spend $10.9 billion (in 2002 dollars) laying four new freeway lanes and a bus rapid-transit route.
When done, the road will be 67 percent wider and carry 110,000 more trips than now. In some parts it will flow more freely. In others — such as the evening rush hour between Bellevue and Renton — it will be as jammed as it is today. (All this is from the state’s studies.)
Project B is Sound Transit’s light-rail plan. For $10.2 billion (in 2006 dollars), it would extend rail north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and south to Tacoma. The whole system, including the line being built now, is projected to carry 300,000 riders daily by 2030.
Yet this is the plan that people are saying is ludicrous.