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Monday, March 16, 2009

Surprise! Stimulus $ Funds Sprawl

Posted by on Mon, Mar 16, 2009 at 1:14 PM

df44/1237234394-houston.jpg Infrastructurist has a roundup of the "Seven Most Ridiculous New Roads being Built With Stimulus Money"—most of them highway extensions or bypasses that serve existing suburban sprawl or enable new sprawl in rural areas. On the list: a 142-mile-long new highway through Indiana farmland that would require the destruction of more than 1,000 acres of forest; a highway-widening project to serve southeastern New Hampshire residents who commute by car into Boston; and a fourth outer loop around Houston that would serve a ring of planned new exurbs. (Photo via Houston Freeways, an amazing catalogue of historical and current photos of Houston freeways, linked on Infrastructurist).


Comments (26) RSS

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Fuck Houston.

That fourth loop will be ridiculously huge. How long until the outer loops around Dallas and Houston just run into each other?

Posted by gravitysgone on March 16, 2009 at 1:20 PM · Report this
I find this shocking! Wait, that's not the right word... predictable, yes, I find this predictable.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on March 16, 2009 at 1:23 PM · Report this
Posted by Urban Sprawl on March 16, 2009 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Surprise! Perpetually cranky person upset because Houston is too hot for cyclists!
Posted by Oh noes. on March 16, 2009 at 1:34 PM · Report this
I hate to say it, but projects like these are precisely why I've been skeptical of the Paul Krugmans of the world who have complained that the stimulus was not big enough.

If we don't make wise decisions with the stimulus money, in the course of saving our economy in the short term, we end up dooming it in the long term.

And no, I'm not an economist.
Posted by cressona on March 16, 2009 at 1:36 PM · Report this
If Kramer was still alive he'd be counseling "buy Bechtel!"

Seriously, though, Washington state DOT has at least four "good" highway/HOV projects, and I have not heard boo about whether they are trying to get stimulus dollars for them:

1. continuous HOV connection between SR167 and 405
2. two-way HOV conversion on across the lake on I-90 (bye-bye reversible lanes once and for all, hello light rail)
3. completion of HOV lanes on I-5 through Tacoma
4. new cross-lake HOV lanes on 520 (of course, these come with a whole new bridge, yippee).

et tu, WSDOT?
Posted by what about us? on March 16, 2009 at 1:44 PM · Report this
It's not too hot for cyclists ~9 months out of the year. Just designed to be hostile to cyclists (or pedestrians) across the board. Which is fine. People who want to bike to work don't have to live there. There's no shortage of other reasons to say

Fuck Houston.
Posted by gravitysgone on March 16, 2009 at 1:45 PM · Report this
Oh my gosh, what a burn by "Infrastructurist", whoever the fuck that is.

The stimulus package was supposed to provide jobs, and yes, build shit. I don't get the problem here.
Posted by bluh? on March 16, 2009 at 1:47 PM · Report this
Your Infrastructurist link is boogered up at the moment.

I hate highway sprawl and forest wastage, but 1,000 acres of forest for 142 miles of highway (if correct) suggests that there ain't much forest in that right-of-way now. Aside from the car-centric absurdity, the worst effects are likely to be on wildlife, watercourses, and carbon footprint.
Posted by rob on March 16, 2009 at 1:50 PM · Report this
@8: the problem is WHAT you build. if you add transit capacity & fix bridges on existing roads, that's one thing. if you choose to make the sprawl hole we've dug bigger, that's another.

it shows that collectively, we still think cars have a long term future - this is wasted money.
Posted by Jesus Fucking Christ on March 16, 2009 at 1:52 PM · Report this
So it's official. You can put an -ist on the end of any noun and start a blog. Get some creativity! I'd prefer if they just called it "The Infastructure Blog."

Also, I think they may be putting waaay too much emphasis on "shovel ready. " What happened to light rail, rural high speed internet and green energy projects? Guess who benefits from those projects? American companies that are about to go under like GM!
Posted by gillsans on March 16, 2009 at 1:55 PM · Report this

Why are these ridiculous? Sound like pretty good ideas.

We need infrastructure. People are having babies, you know.
Posted by formanoreasta on March 16, 2009 at 1:59 PM · Report this
@10, the stimulus was going to "shovel ready" infrastructure projects, right? To get people working? So, you are saying there were any number of shovel-ready, visionary futurist urban reinvention projects already on the drawing board?

I don't remember everyone agreeing that "sprawl" was bad or that cars are on their way out -- I was under the impression that was the view of a relatively small (if shrill) group of mostly useless "activists"
Posted by bluh? on March 16, 2009 at 2:05 PM · Report this
pave baby pave!
Posted by taint on March 16, 2009 at 2:13 PM · Report this
15 Comment Pulled (OffTopic) Comment Policy
13: You, you pro-car, pro-sprawl people are just as shrill as anyone on the opposite side. How can you post that shit and then accuse the anti-sprawl people of being shrill. Your whining is the definition of the word. And no, it's not just activists. If you knew anything about design or urban planning, you would know that.
Posted by Jay on March 16, 2009 at 2:20 PM · Report this
If you think sprawl is a good thing, you're probably developmentally retarded.
Posted by Jay on March 16, 2009 at 2:22 PM · Report this
@16, I fully disclose that I know nothing about urban planning. Nor does the average voter, or, I'm guessing, 99% of the electorate (not to mention the elected). I'm not whining at all, it's ECB that was whining in this Slog post that her idea of "stimulus" was foolishly not being heeded by anyone. I think what I've heard of the stimulus spending sounds fine so far, though it will likely be woefully inadequate, as Krugman speculates.

Go ahead and call me "retarded", but I was under the impression that most people in America drive cars (and will continue to drive cars for decades and decades to come). I also think most people in the U.S. live in the areas you call "sprawl" or "exurbs". Lashing out at the majority of us, without explaining why your ideas (whatever they are, exactly -- I've yet to see them articulated here on Slog without a sort of glancing reference to some kind of perceived conventional wisdom) are superior just seems "shrill" to me.
Posted by bluh? on March 16, 2009 at 2:36 PM · Report this
To be quite frank, I'm not that surprised, and am not so sure these aren't good ideas.

Sprawl is in the bloodstream of most politicos right now - you don't see a total change overnight.

Just remove the subsidies by imposing a $1 a gallon carbon tax that only goes to high-speed passenger rail and transit.
Posted by Will in Seattle on March 16, 2009 at 2:38 PM · Report this
Sprawl is where other unenlightened people live, generally people who get about in the most efficient way possible that guarantees the greatest flexibility and mobility, no matter the conditions, i.e., a car.

Offering a portion of these unenlightened people other ways to get around where it makes sense, (i.e., a train to downtown, optimized for commuting hours) is ok, but fortunately, the aesthetic choice they made (a new McMansion or old-world-charm-free condo) will still offer the enlightened an opportunity to look down on them.

And thus the established elite preserve their status.
Posted by JohnB on March 16, 2009 at 2:48 PM · Report this
@18: you will learn about urban planning. there will be no avoiding this.

rule #1 of Peak Oil: people will NOT be driving for "decades & decades to come". not at $4/gallon. not when bio-fuels prove to be a bust. not when americans are unable to "invent our way" out of the energy crisis. not when climate change forces draconian limits on GHG emissions.

no one's taking your car away. us "few shrill activists" think that these funds would be better spent building the infrastructure of the future rather than propping up the past. no matter how much you (and i) like to drive.
Posted by Jesus Fucking Christ on March 16, 2009 at 2:51 PM · Report this
@21, what is the "infrastructure of the future"? Who is explaining this to anyone outside of your group of cognicenti, effectively laying out the shovel-ready plans to remake, what, all of Western civilization? Forgive me for not knowing what the fuck you're talking about, since I live in the actual world, where I vote over and over for "transit plans" for decades now, and I'm still having to drive to work every day for hours in traffic, to get from my job (in a sprawling Eastside exurb) to my home (also in a sprawling Eastside exurb).

It's easy to mock people for coming up with inferior solutions to real world problems that fall short of the lofty dreams of what the future should turn out like, but it seems to me that the ideas you seem to think everyone has signed off on for the future of our society haven't even been articulated to the general public, well, at all. Good luck with all the shrill mockery, though.

I'm guessing it's the fault of me coworkers and neighbors that they will never realize how ruthlessly and roundly the stimulus plan was savaged on "Infrastructurist", someplace on the fringes of the Internet.
Posted by bluh? on March 16, 2009 at 3:06 PM · Report this
"1,000 acres of forest" sounds a lot more menacing than "1.6 square miles", don't you think?
Posted by Roland on March 16, 2009 at 3:40 PM · Report this
If the "highway-widening project" in New Hampshire is the work on Route 93 around Exit 3, it's less about increasing road capacity and more about making that section of road less likely to kill people.

You're making the same dumb mistake as Bobby Jindal - assuming that, because you don't know anything about a given use of federal funds, it must be completely wasteful.
Posted by AnonymousCoward on March 16, 2009 at 3:53 PM · Report this
@22 - intended without mockery:

we've built an incredibly vast & expensive system of transportation - of people & goods - that is dependent on cheap energy inputs from all over the globe, often from countries whose citizens or governments are hostile to us. these resources are finite, and their use is harming the atmosphere.

i recognize that exurb to exurb transportation choices other than cars are non-existent, but increasing capacity on these routes does not solve the problem of congestion. use has historically increased to fill capacity. the massive misallocation of investment to this point (and dis-investment in transportation alternatives) does not mandate continued growth of the system into the future.

but no politician, even obama, has the courage to tell the american public this, let alone change the policy. it's political suicide.
Posted by Jesus Fucking Christ on March 16, 2009 at 4:18 PM · Report this
I'm all for the work in Houston. Since Texas is going to secede (with President Chuck Norris leading the new country) they'll need all the help they can get.

Just think of it! A great new country, comprised almost entirely of morons (Their first act will undoubtedly to be to destroy the U of Texas as a symbol of their independence).

Unfortunately, that will probably be their last act as well, since Mexico will be able to roll over those idiots Sherman marching through Georgia.
Posted by The South will fall again! on March 17, 2009 at 7:02 AM · Report this

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