Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Here We Go Again: Highway Widening in Baldwin Park

The Los Angeles Times and the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported recently that the 10 highway is being widened for carpool lanes on a two mile stretch between the 605 highway and the 57 highway. The first phase is projected to cost $175 million and is being paid for out of a mix of federal and state funds. It's part of a larger, project, projected to cost $350 million more, to extend the carpool lanes all the way between the 605 and the 57.

Both articles were fairly uncritical of the boosters' predictions that the roads would increase the speed of traffic. For example in the Times article, Ari Bloomekatz makes this pronouncement: "there is general agreement that the 10 Freeway is overburdened with its current load of traffic". There's also a lot of optimism about the ability of the carpool lanes to reduce air pollution by getting people to share rides instead of driving alone.

I'm always skeptical of freeway widenings, even for carpool lanes. While ride sharing is preferable to driving alone. I fear that carpool lanes also reinforce automobile dependent suburban development patterns in the Inland Empire.

Why is the first instinct to widen the road? What about pricing the road? What about converting an existing lane to carpools? What about transit? What about getting some regional control over land use, so we can build the kinds of communities that aren't slaves to cars? Won't the road just fill back up again as driving speeds increase and new development at the fringe makes new commuters? Do carpool lanes even work, since many of them are now as slow as regular lanes?

I'm not celebrating this highway widening. You can't greenwash a road project with carpool lanes.

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