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The Highway Mentality in Action

January 30, 2007

A sterling example in today’s Oregonian (thanks to Sightline’s TidePool) on the attitude of the Federal Highway Administration when it comes to planning for the future.

Metro, the regional government responsible for strategic planning in the Portland area, is giving the highest priority to projects that support the region’s goals for coping with growth, whether that means more roads, more transit or more bicycle lanes.

Not good enough for the FHA.

The highway agency scolded Metro for not focusing more on highways, cars and parking.

“The plan should acknowledge that automobiles are the preferred mode of transport by the citizens of Portland,” the agency said. “They vote with their cars every day.”

So there we have it: People vote with their cars, therefore we must build more roads, so people can drive more, which means they’re voting for more roads – and more cars, forever.  Which is what keeps the FHA in business, providing infinite capacity for infinite demand.

Suggested motto for the FHA: “It doesn’t work, we know it doesn’t work, we’re going to do it anyway.”

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 30, 2007 1:52 pm

    I can’t help but laugh. This started with my post on PortlandTransport.com. Read the update to the post for how the blogosphere and mainstream media interact to get something like this circulating.

  2. Paul Edgar permalink
    January 30, 2007 5:00 pm

    FHWA is being misunderstood or mischaracterized in all of this.

    Portland Oregon and the regional Metro government forgot to invest in reasonable and sufficient highways and arterials and it has got to point where the primary north/south freight corridor is congested to where they ae forcasting 5 to 6-mile long backups that last 14-hours per day.

    The Federal Government has responsibilities to ensure corridors like I-5 have adequate capacity and this is not happening. It is hard to load a freight container on a passenger style Light Rail Train. I-5 is the only access to much of the international Terminals. The problems are so great that I-5 in Portland has the 3rd worse air quality in the United States and the congestion in this corridor directly contributes to this toxic air problem.

    The FED’s are just telling the local governments get your head out of the sand and put some balance back into meeting basic needs.

    Portland Oregon has one of the best Light Rail and Streetcars systems, excellent bike paths and tries to do what is right for pedestrians but has forgot that a healthy and vibrant community must also address the needs of freight and business, the environment, and the rest of the citizenry 95% that relies on a car.

    The FED is only asking for balance based on known demand. Portland Oregon and Metro has a responsibility to swing the pendulum back and invest some money and priority in roads if they want to continue to feed at the Federal Government trough

  3. Ross Williams permalink
    February 8, 2007 6:42 pm

    Portland Oregon and the regional Metro government forgot to invest in reasonable and sufficient highways and arterials and it has got to point where the primary north/south freight corridor is congested to where they ae forcasting 5 to 6-mile long backups that last 14-hours per day.

    I think there are two things that are misleading.

    First is that the congestion on I5 was caused by over-investment in freeway capacity in Clark County Washington. There are seven freeway lanes that converge at a three lane bridge across the Columbia that connects to no more than three freeway lanes to the south.

    Second, everyone acknowledges that the models being used for projections assume no change in land use as a result of new construction. But, in fact, there will be changes. And part of the problem is that the new freeway lanes in Washington stimulated a lot of new housing development in rural Clark County while it failed to attract jobs to the area.

    The way to provide adequate freight capacity is to use the existing capacity more efficiently. That means reducing the number of people that use a single-occupancy vehicle for commutes during the most congested times.

    The problem is not a lack of road capacity, it is the misuse of the capacity and the failure to provide attractive alternatives that get people out of their personal car.

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