Hm. Just days after my post on the global warming impacts of highway widening, BC premier Gordon Campbell comes along to prove why this issue is so ripe. From a Vancouver Sun article on the premier’s otherwise quite nifty global warming policy:

Campbell…continued to defend the Gateway project, which will twin the Port Mann bridge, saying that it will reduce emissions and make room for rapid-bus services along the highway.

There’s that disturbing meme again: widen a highway, and GHG emissions will fall. Grrrr.

Like most urban legends, the “lane building is good” meme owes some of its stickiness to the fact that it’s unexpected. Like a man-bites-dog story, it’s memorable because it seems counterintuitive, even crazy. And somehow, the fact that it sounds wrong on its face may actually make the idea more plausible, not less. (Or if not plausible, at least interesting enough for people to file away, and repeat as if it were a known fact.)

The problem: the reason that that the “more lanes is good” meme sounds crazy is that, well, it is crazy. We cranked through the numbers and found that widening aCampbell-Schwarzenegger 112w congested highway will almost certainly increase GHG emissions over the long haul. So in this case, there’s a reason that the idea is counterintuitive: it’s simply false!

We’ve had high praise for Campbell’s aggressive global warming stance for a while. But on this point, it looks like he’s been suckered by an urban legend.