3/07/2005

so I've been following this plan in Texas where some government types are trying to build a system of quarter-mile wide superhighways across the state. Supposedly, these highways will alleviate traffic, let big trucks go faster, and make it so trucks and trains carrying toxic chemicals will avoid big cities. (Here's an article on Yahoo about it.) It's an interesting idea, but I doubt it will really alleviate traffic. For one thing, I learned in geography class that there's something called "induced demand," where if you build a new road, it will just fill up again. This happens for a number of reasons, including making people think it's an easier route, and that development will spread along the new road, making people need to travel on it. (This site has a bit more about the phenomenon.) And if this Texas superhighway has too many exits and development is allowed along it, or people use it for going to their friend's house across town rather than long distance travel like it's supposed to be used for, it will just create more sprawl and traffic. I mean, highway beltways around cities are supposed to get people to the other side of the city while avoiding downtown traffic, but in a lot of places (like San Antonio, for instance) it's basically just another road to put stores along and it gets really crowded. DC's Beltway has bad traffic because of the volume of cars, but it obviously has some development restrictions, because there really isn't much retail along it compared to some places. If it did have lots of stuff along it though, I'm sure it would be worse. Anyway, I thought it was a pretty interesting article. Only in Texas.

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