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Advocates Crash 101 Celebration of Induced Traffic and Pollution

101 Express Lanes – Grand Opening (04/15/23). Photo: SamTrans

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Induced demand? What’s that?

Pretending induced demand–a well-documented phenomenon–doesn’t exist was the unintentional theme of Saturday’s celebration of the opening of the “managed lanes” project on 101 in San Mateo County (also known as freeway widening). More details on the $600 million project from KQED:

The San Mateo 101 Express Lanes Project officially opened in a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday. The 22 miles of express lanes that extend along Highway 101 from the San Mateo/Santa Clara county line to Interstate 380 in South San Francisco are intended to reduce traffic congestion and encourage carpooling and transit use along one of the busiest thoroughfares on the San Francisco Peninsula. “The express lanes opening in San Mateo County has been years in the making [and] it’s finally come to fruition,” said U.S. Rep. Kevin Mullin of San Mateo, who represents District 15. “It’s good for the economy, it’s good for the environment, and it’s a win for all of the stakeholders who’ve been involved for years now in pulling this project together.”

Of course, Mullin’s claim that it’s “good for the environment” is utter nonsense. If officials wanted to help the environment, they could have converted existing lanes to toll, HOV, and bus lanes instead of adding more lanes.

Most advocates would probably prefer to be anywhere else on a Saturday than standing in the middle of screaming lanes of car pollution. But Mike Swire, a Peninsula advocate and member of the Citizen’s Advisory Committee of the San Mateo County Transit Authority, Max Mautner, Co-Lead of Move San Mateo, and Darryl Yip, who is leading the opposition to further widening of 101 between 380 and San Francisco, went down to try and push back against the gaslighting.

__ mike
Mautner, Swire and Yip came to protest the ribbon cutting: Image from Swire’s photo stream
__ mike

And since KQED quoted Swire as saying the 101 project was “the worst local environmental decision in recent memory” and that “highway widening has never worked,” it had the desired effect.

Officials, meanwhile, talked “about the environmental and equity impacts of the project,” Swire wrote in an email to Streetsblog. “No mentions of global warming, air pollution, traffic violence or induced demand. Lots of prominent politicos there and speaking – e.g., newly elected Congressman Kevin Mullin, progressive County Supervisor David Canepa, and newly elected Assemblywoman Diane Papan (the project’s primary sponsor).”

Sure, as long as the people in those low-income communities hold their breath.

Photo by Caltrans of their latest widening project
Photo by Caltrans of their latest widening project
Photo by Caltrans of another recent widening project, the 101 'express lanes'

As Streetsblog reported previously, vested interests in widening 101 (and other roads) sometimes even acknowledge, at least tacitly, that their projects accomplish nothing–and, in fact, are making things worse. Nevertheless, they continue to do the work, knowing full well it is damaging to the environment and leading to more crashes and other destructive effects. Advocates have to keep calling this evil out until they stop.

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