Monday, May 11, 2009

Fixing the nation's roads

The fight over the renewal of the transportation bill has begun. In one corner are the granola eating transit advocates who hate cars. In the other corner are the suburban SUV energy sucking drivers who want better road conditions. Yes, a bit of an exaggeration but it is not going to be pretty with limited funds for roads and transit and a real need to rethink our entire transportation system and network.

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials has already thrown their hat into the ring. This article covers what is going to be a cornerstone of the auto centric lobbying campaign for more money for roads:

A third of major U.S. interstates and major highways are in poor or mediocre condition, but it’s a particular problem in urban areas with populations of 250,000 or more, said the report by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the road advocacy group TRIP. It was released this morning at a news conference in Bloomfield Township.

The groups are using the study as ammunition to get federal lawmakers to significantly increase spending in the next six-year federal highway bill, which Congress will begin debating this summer. AASHTO is pushing for an increase in federal spending from $286 billion to $470 billion in the next highway

So the question is how can we fix our roads? I have a few ideas.

1. Less roads means less repairs. We can start reclaiming more pedestrian space by extending sidewalks, bump outs, boulevards, islands, green landscaping, and auto-free streets.

2. More transit right-of-ways and use. While this will still wear down roads would it not be more practical to have buses that can carry hundreds of passengers instead of single occupied vehicles.

3. Eliminate on-street parking. City's have the power to change their zoning codes to reflect maximum parking requirements instead of minimums. Or even better yet how about eliminating parking requirements.

4. Streets that are built and designed to have bicycles. We all know that the wear and tear from bicycle use on the streets is almost nonexistent. Why not give them more space and priorities on our nations streets.

What would this all accomplish, huge savings for road repair while nudging the nation in the right direction in regards to our current and future use of our streets.

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