Stim-Funded Highways to Nowhere

The Obama administration has warned that misuse of stimulus funds will
lower a state’s chances of receiving federal help in the future. Today
on the Streetsblog Network, however, The Infrastructurist
has identified seven road projects in six states (Kentucky has two)
that it calls "the most ridiculous new roads being built with stimulus
money." In Texas, for example:

grand_parkway_east_300x186.jpgPhoto via Infrastructurist

Houston,
it seems, wants to be like Beijing. With six ring roads, the Chinese
government has made it clear it doesn’t mind letting sprawl continue
without limits around its capital. Houston’s Grand Parkway, at 184
miles in length and a projected cost of $5.1 billion, will be the
city’s fourth outer loop.

The next stretch of the road to be
built, funded by $181 million of stimulus money, would be a 14-mile
corridor running through the traces of Texas’ famous — and now almost
completely destroyed — Katy Prairie, as well as a number of other
uninhabited areas, including a swath of Lake Houston State Park.

Other, similarly egregious projects are planned for North Carolina, Indiana, New Hampshire and Maryland.

In more encouraging news, Milwaukee Rising reports on a state effort to outlaw dooring, Matthew Yglesias talks about how congestion pricing would benefit low-income Californians, and Bike Portland follows up on Transpo Secretary Ray LaHood’s positive comments at last week’s National Bike Summit.

  • Chuck Wolfe

    Can’t speak for other states, but neither of the two Kentucky projects cited on the Infrastructurist site — an I-65 bridge in downtown Louisville and I-66 across southern Kentucky — is a stimulus project. Neither is even remotely close to construction, which was the critical criterion. For example, five stimulus projects were approved for Louisville and all are pavement rehab jobs on Interstates 65, 265 and 264.

  • Peter

    I have a feeling that a lot of this ring-da-ring-da-ring-type road construction has to do with lack of education about a ‘grand vision’. Meaning, advocates have no idea how a transportation should look when extended into the burbs, and if any of us actually did, we’ve not gone out of our way to let anyone know what that top secret model is.

    So, I remember Atlanta is or was building another Great Highway around at least the north side of the city – another 10 or 20 miles outside the existing 285 loop. But what would the alternative be? What’s the end game? Is it this hub-and-spoke thing that everyone hates and says doesn’t work? Is it something else?

    I don’t think even advocates believe that they’re supposed to be thinking about this kind of stuff, never mind actually thinking about it.

    Just my take. I have no idea what the answers are, but it just seems obvious to me that we’re completely directionless when it comes to long term planning. We say, “Let’s build a new metro line over here, and then we’ll throw a few buses at this highway, and some new housing over here, and it’ll all work out! I promise!”

    It’s not a very convincing argument, and doesn’t allow us to have meaningful discussions about the future. So instead, we get another highway, because it’s the only ‘concrete’ solution that makes sense to people — “this highway is crowded, it’s all people coming from here and going to there, ok, so let’s put in another highway along this stretch, done.” Like it or not, that makes perfect sense to a lot of people, including me.

    We have to do better. I don’t know the answers, but someone must.

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