Saturday, August 18, 2012

16 Lanes

16 Lanes by Rootchopper
16 Lanes, a photo by Rootchopper on Flickr.
Here is my humble Mule on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail high above the recently expanded beltway in Falls Church Virginia. Count 'em. 16 lanes.

I was recently in Atlanta and saw pretty much the same thing. And I am going to Los Angeles tomorrow to see it yet again.

I am flabbergasted that Americans actually want this. What happens 20 years from now? Do we add another 4 lanes? Transportation policy in this country is simply inane.

A simple solution to this would be to raise the tax on gasoline to the inflation adjusted level it was at in 1993, the last time it was raised and index it (just like your income taxes and social security benefits) to the rate of inflation. That would be about a 13 cent increase. Congress won't do that because Congress is a gutless, dysfunctional mess that responds only to a populace that has all the fiscal discipline of a four-year old.

There are two good things about this picture. One is the trail that my bike is parked on. We need many, many more of them. We might even reduce our health care expenses in the bargain.

The second good thing is that four of the lanes are HOT lanes. That's right, they use a transponder to charge for use. How long will it take for Virginia to grant exceptions. They did this on the HOV lanes for hybrid cars. Now the sprawl extends 20 miles farther away from the city.

End of screed.


  1. Although in the long run, I'd expect a gas tax to result in more efficient cars and traffic. Why not get to the root of the problem and charge a congestion tax?

  2. When I moved to DC in 2002, I wondered why everyone wasn't rioting in the streets over the traffic congestion. Having watched sprawl grow for ten years, I have a better appreciation as to why people put up with it. It just slowly grows on you, a little bit at a time, and you never really take notice of it. That and the fact that we've set up an entire region (a country, really) based on the belief that everybody will drive a car. Logistically, cycling is simply not an option for hundreds of thousands of people. I live in Prince William County, along with 400,000 other people, almost all of whom work in DC/Fairfax County. Additionally, almost all of the retail shopping in herded into gigantic shopping zones, meaning tens of thousands of people congregate in hundreds of acres many miles from where most people live.

    In short, adding a 13 cent tax won't solve the fundamental infrastructure problems we have. I guess it hasn't gotten bad enough yet. Eventually, we will have no choice and people will be forced to rethink how our communities are organized.