councilor.org  


Sobering
Source John Lahr
Date 99/06/29/00:24

>Dear John and Jan,
>
>Here is another item that I had published recently that you may find
>interesting.
>
>Al
>
>This is an enlarged version of the guest editorial in the Boulder Planet
>(Boulder, Colorado) of May 26, 1999, Pg. 16.
>
>TURNPIKE SPAWNS GROWTH, TAXES, POLLUTION
>Albert A. Bartlett
>
>The Boulder Planetís excellent special report (May 19,1999) on US highway
>36 (The Denver-Boulder Turnpike) began with a misleading headline which
>said that the "Turnpike Faces an Uncertain Future." The enormous success
>of the extraordinary ongoing efforts to promote, sell and develop the
>Colorado Front Range area guarantees that there is no uncertainty about the
>future of traffic on the Turnpike! Traffic will get worse! The
>transportation experts consulted by your reporter were only partially
>correct when they said "Traffic on the Turnpike is going to get worse -
>maybe a lot worse - before it gets better." The experts were wrong in
>imagining that, at sometime in the future, traffic would get better. It is
>fiscally and physically impossible to add more lanes fast enough to
>overcome the effects of the local population growth that is causing the
>current increases in congestion. A fundamental law of building urban
>highways is, "You don't add extra lanes to urban highways to alleviate
>traffic jams, you add them to enlarge traffic jams."
>
>Some people still maintain that the answer to the problem of congestion on
>the Turnpike is to add more lanes to the four present lanes (two each way).
> But let's do some ballpark arithmetic on the cost of adding lanes to the
>Turnpike. Some years ago State Highway people told me it would cost
>between $5 million and $8 million a lane-mile to add lanes to the Turnpike.
> An added lane each way would total about 50 lane-miles, and at the lower
>figure this would cost about $250 million. If everything is operating
>perfectly I believe the maximum number of vehicles that can go by on one
>lane is 2000 cars an hour. That's one car every 1.8 seconds. If the rush
>hour is 2.5 hours in the morning and 2.5 in the evening, then an added lane
>each way gives the total added capacity of 10,000 rush hour car round trips
>each day. For this, the public would pay $250 million. If you do the long
>division I believe you will see that for these added lanes, the taxpayers
>would be paying about $25,000 in construction costs for each added vehicle
>accomodated in the rush hours. This is approximately the retail cost of the
>extra accomodated vehicle! Is this the best way to spend tax dollars?
>
>In his famous essay, the Tragedy of the Commons, the biologist Garrett
>Hardin points out how the benefits of growth accrue to a few, while the
>costs of growth have to be paid by all. The Turnpike is a wonderful
>demonstration of the truth of this essay. The benefits of added lanes
>would accrue to the developers and investors and their politicians who are
>so eager to see the Turnpike enlarged, while the taxpayers would be left to
>pay the construction and maintenance costs.
>
>Some years ago there was a hearing in Broomfield on the subject of adding a
>new interchange to serve the Interlocken Business Park and the big
>manufacturer, Storage Tech. The meeting opened by having a traffic
>engineer make a report of his detailed studies of the growth of traffic at
>several intersections around Broomfield. It does not take much study to
>realize that, if traffic continues to grow, all intersections in the area
>will soon be at capacity and jammed. This engineer presented his analysis
>of the obvious, from which he drew the desired conclusion: a new
>interchange had to be built. In the question period that followed, I said
>that there were three questions which seemed to me to be important, but
>which the engineer had not addressed.
>
>1) What is the long-term future of petroleum as a fuel for motor vehicles?
>
>2) The proposed new Broomfield interchange will pour lots of new traffic
>on the Turnpike. What will all of this added traffic do to the congestion
>that was already being experienced on the Turnpike?
>
>3) What did you learn in school? Did you learn that it makes sense to
>destroy the "limited-access" feature of a limited-access highway?
>
>The presiding officer immediately said, "Next question Please."
>
>The point about limited access was recognized in the Planet's thoughtful
>story. "As the [Turnpike] corridor has developed it has spawned its own
>local traffic, contributing to Turnpike congestion... Now it serves
>multiple destinations. Most of the trips [on the Turnpike] are short ones
>between interchanges," according to a planner for the Regional
>Transportation District (RTD).
>
>The Turnpike was planned and built as a limited-access highway, with access
>only at Baseline Road in Boulder, at the mid-point in Broomfield, and at
>Federal Boulevard in Denver. It was designed to serve traffic between
>Denver, Broomfield, and Boulder. But now about five more interchanges have
>been added, and these added interchanges violate the original intent of the
>Turnpike. Instead of being preserved as a useful limited-access highway,
>the Turnpike has been transformed into a crowded heavy-duty city street.
>The traffic congestion that is the result of this transformation is
>completely predictable. But we should note that, as proponents of each new
>added interchange made their cases, the proponents and their hired experts
>all avoided saying anything about the long-term implications of destroying
>the limited-access feature that made the Turnpike so useful in its early
>decades.
>
>The Boulder Chamber of Commerce and the Boulder City Council were
>instrumental in the initial effort to build the Turnpike. They wanted a
>limited-access toll road that would serve the people of Boulder, giving us
>a quick reliable route to Denver. After the Turnpike was paid for, the
>tolls were removed and the pressure began to build to put new interchanges
>along the Turnpike. I remember writing to both the Chamber and the Council
>urging them serve the people of Boulder by opposing new interchanges on the
>Turnpike because the new traffic generated by the new interchanges would
>crowd Boulder people off of the Turnpike that they had paid for with their
>tolls. There was no response.
>
>I attended public meetings in Broomfield and Westminster, asking that two
>of the proposed new interchanges not be made, and I was laughed out of the
>halls. After the hearing in Westminster, a high official of Westminster,
>who had spoken strongly in favor of the proposed Sheridan Interchange, was
>talking to a group in the lobby outside the hearing room, and, with
>considerable enthusiasm he said, "With this new interchange, Westminster
>could grow from its present population of xxx (a modest number) to XXX (an
>enormous number) in ten years." Then he paused for a moment and added,
>"And Westminster would probably not be such a nice place when it got that
>big."
>
>Your story said it very nicely, "the Pike has become a victim of its own
>success." This is a marvelous example of Eric Sevareid's Law:
>
>"The chief cause of problems is solutions."
>
>The Turnpike was a solution to the problem of getting conveniently between
>Boulder and Denver. That solution has now caused all of the problems which
>your story so carefully covered.
>
>The closing quote in the story in the Planet was interesting. "Try to
>imagine life without the Turnpike." As the Planet's story made clear, the
>Turnpike spawned all the growth that clogs it today. From the information
>given in the Planet's story it is clear that without the Turnpike, the
>growth would not be as overwhelming as it is today, taxes would be lower,
>the schools would be less crowded, and the air would be cleaner, and the
>old zig-zag two-lane road from Boulder to Denver would be congested with
>two lanes of traffic. Now the Turnpike is congested with four lanes of
>traffic. Add two more lanes, and the Turnpike will be congested with six
>lanes of traffic. Add ten more lanes....
>
>We are fortunate that our representative on the Regional Transportation
>District Board of Directors, Judge Richard McLean, understands the problem,
>probably better than many of the "planners" who were reported by the Planet
>to have been "taken by surprise" by the rapid growth that is reducing the
>utility of the Turnpike.
>
>Probably the best way to slow the increase in congestion on the Turnpike is
>to develop passenger rail commuter service on the existing system of
>heavy-railroads from Fort Collins, through Loveland, Longmont, Niwot,
>Boulder, Broomfield and Denver. The Boulder County Commissioners set up a
>Task Force a dozen years ago to study this. The Task Force presented a
>plan that envisaged a network of commuter trains operating on existing
>rails between Denver and many Front Range cities and the new Denver
>International Airport (DIA). The Mayor of Denver, who later became
>Secretary of Transportation, showed no interest in developing rail
>transportation to bring large numbers of commuters and customers from the
>suburbs and DIA into the heart of Denver. He was a highway man. It is
>time to get serious and to develop plans to implement the one
>transportation option that makes sense in the Front Range area of Colorado;
>heavy rail in which commuter passenger trains operate regularly and
>reliably on the existing network railroads that converge on Denver. Other
>American cities are doing it. If we hurry, we can be followers.
>
>
>Albert A. Bartlett; Professor Emeritus of Physics
>University of Colorado, Boulder, 80309-0390; (303) 492 7016
>Department Office: (303) 492 6952: FAX (303) 492 3352
>
>Home; 2935 19th Street, Boulder, CO, 80304-2719: (303) 443 0595
>
>NEW E-MAIL ADDRESS STARTING 10/1/98: Albert.Bartlett@Colorado.EDU

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