This isn’t exactly a balanced article—but luckily, its biases match mine. So therefore it’s great: a nifty roundhouse kick, straight from the Willamette Week, to the notion that widening a highway is a boon, either to the climate or the economy.
In this case, it’s the Columbia River Crossing, connecting Portland and suburban Clark County, WA, that’s in the crosshairs. Here’s my favorite bit:
The $4.2 billion [pricetag for a new bridge] could buy a $21,000 Toyota Prius hybrid and a year’s worth of gas, four new $1,000 bikes, and an annual $1,260 C-Tran pass to Portland for each of Clark County’s 150,000 households.
Yoiks! That makes the wildly overpriced Alaskan Way Viaduct rebuild—the one voters roundly rejected last year—look like a bargain! Of course, pitting cars, bikes and transit against a bridge isn’t completely fair. A Prius will last, what, 15 years or so, and the bikes and transit passes a lot less. But a bridge could be standing for 50 years.
But that’s just the problem—50 years of bridge is likely to carry a lot of traffic over the long haul, which will make it that much harder for Oregon to meet its long-term climate protection goals. The Willamette Week gets the traffic effects just right:
There’s a concept transportation planners call “induced travel,” which means more road capacity results in more traffic.
While the precise relationship between capacity and demand remains under debate, CRC figures show if a new bridge were built without tolls, the number of people crossing the Columbia would increase dramatically, versus the no-build option. Figures show that without tolls, a new bridge would carry 225,000 passengers a day by 2030, while the current bridges, if left in place, would carry only 184,000. The difference of 41,000 is the “induced travel” generated by the newly built capacity.
For more on all of this, you might want to peruse our memo from last fall, exploring how highway widening increases overall greenhouse gas emissions.