A study from the Oregon Transportation Research and Education Consortium (OTREC) has concluded that building more freeways in metropolitan areas that are congested can actually make traffic jams worse, and that a no-freeways approach to traffic engineering and urban planning can be better for people and the environment. Of the alternative approach to new freeway building, the authors say, “From a practical perspective, a no-more-freeway policy can relieve transportation funds for other potentially more effective usages, such as improving urban arterial street system, improving transit level of service and coverage, implementing demand management and pricing strategies, and facilitating more efficient land use patterns (e.g. high density in-fill and transit-oriented developments).” (Source: TRB.org)
Building more freeways to address existing traffic problems is a short-term solution, that can be very expensive and actually contribute to bigger issues in the long-term. For example, in 1900 there were 149 miles of paved roads in the United States, and now there are about 4 million. Cities like San Francisco, Portland and New York have all removed well-trafficked urban highways and seen improvements in congestion and quality of life. In Seoul, Korea an urban highway was removed that had over 100,000 trips a day and yet there was less congestion when it was gone. The space it had been on was converted to a 1,000 acre farm with a restored stream. Summer temperatures were lower because there wasn’t a massive amount of concrete to absorb sunlight and stay hot, and there were more plants to improve air quality.
If the default mentality is to build more freeways and not light rail or new bus lines, taxpayers wind up footing enormously costly projects that produce dubious results and sometimes add to the problems. In Seattle, an aging highway has been considered for removal or replacement. Replacing it could cost billions and take years. Cary Moon, who opposes the new highway said, “If you try to build your way out of congestion, you’ll ruin your city or go broke trying.” (Source: cnu.org)
An unfinished freeway in Milwaukee would have cost $100 million to complete but was removed for $25 million. Using the new space more wisely resulted in $300 million in development investments.
Another potential benefit is that less animals are killed in vehicle accidents, if there are fewer drivers and highways.
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