There Will Be Wailing And Gnashing Of Teeth

That’s how I think the South-of-459-US-280 crowd is going to react to this:

The Birmingham area should look at all its options before building elevated lanes on U.S. 280, according to a consultant Mountain Brook and Homewood hired to provide an alternative.

Ian Lockwood of the Florida urban planning firm Glatting Jackson Kercher Anglin said the region needs to work together to determine whether moving cars is really the community’s top priority. Lockwood, who was in town to survey the highway, will return May 1-3 to present his suggestions.

“If you really want to solve your problems on 280, stop doing what you’re doing,” Lockwood told a crowd of about 150 people Wednesday at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. “It’s not working for you. It didn’t work in the’80s. It didn’t work in the’90s. It’s not working in Atlanta.”

B-b-b-but, BIGGER ROADS, MORE CARS, must have them, NOW, NOW, NOW!!! Hippy! Flower Child! Tree Hugger! America Hater! We need MORE ROADS!!!!

I have absolutely no sympathy for folks stuck in traffic on 280. It’s assumption of the risk: They knew about the traffic before they moved out there. But even if I lived somewhere in those intermingled territories of Shelby County, Hoover, Birmingham South, and JeffCo, I would still oppose any solution that involved an elevated highway or a bigger road.

280 used to be a two lane road. That got to be too small. So we made it bigger. That was too small. So we made it bigger. And now six lanes are too small, so groups like Progress 280 are “figuring on biggering, and biggering, and biggering, and BIGGERING.” This isn’t an unusual story. You don’t even have to leave JeffCo to see another great example. On a bike ride I did last fall up to Graysville, I stood on what was once the two-lane highway from B’ham to Memphis and looked over at the current highway, the four lane US 78, and beyond that observed the road crews working on 78’s replacement: The future I-22. Fact is, bigger roads only lead to a demand for bigger roads:

The simple truth is that building more highways and widening existing roads, almost always motivated by concern over traffic, does nothing to reduce traffic. In the long run, in fact, it increases traffic. This revelation is so counterintuitive that it bears repeating: adding lanes makes traffic worse.

Land is a finite resource. We can only make the roads bigger so many times. And the end result of all the resources spent on a bigger road is always going to be the same: Traffic problems just as bad as they were prior to the expansion. Hence, it’s about time we started to think about different ways of getting from one place to another.

In other words, I’m really looking forward to hearing what this guy has to say. Especially now that I have skimmed though his study: “Transportation Prescription for Healthy Cities.” Lots of good stuff in there; ideas that would do a lot more for B’ham and the burbs, and for a lot less money, than an elevated 280 (or even a Dome!).

BTW, some of my earlier thoughts are here, and here. Also, check out Stop Elevated Highway.

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3 Comments on “There Will Be Wailing And Gnashing Of Teeth”

  1. Frank Says:

    Ian is a good friend — and he is correct. No one will address the congestion issues on 280 (I remember when it was two lanes) by simply expanding it. That is the equivalent of a fat man saying he has conquered his weight issues by letting out his belt.

  2. Sailer Says:

    Looking ahead a few years one can see the end of gasoline driven cars. Mass transit in the form of rails is in the future. Also bicyle friendly routes to encourage overweight americans to burn fat not gas would help. Bham is a very unfriendly place for walkers or bicycles. Buses are the worst form of mass transit. Logically designed and cheap mass transit would be great for Bham. But if it takes too long and costs too much to get somewhere people will stay in their cars. Elevated rail systems can go fast from station to station and allow the passengers to look down at the people stuck in bumper to bumper traffic. Outlying stations could have parking lots so that commuters can drive to the station and park then ride to where they want to be. One of the problems with buses is that they add to road traffic and usually go slower than cars. But with present day technology an elevated train can easily go 50-60 mph with no stopping or slowing between stations. If they would allow bikes a commuter could ride their bike a short distance to a station..take the bike on the train and then ride another short distance to where they want to be. Even a 1/2 mile walk on each end would be OK for most commuters. I now walk at least that far from my parking deck to my office.

  3. […] Latest On 280 Just like I thought, the newest consultants have offered some great ideas for 280, proposing the use of interchanges […]

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