Do Shiny New Roads “Only Make Idiots More Dangerous”?

We hear the arguments again and again from DOTs: they need to widen highways and expand interchanges to improve safety on the nation’s roads.

Streetsblog Network member The Political Environment, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sees it differently: 

3371733664_98b68c311e_m.jpgPhoto of the Marquette Interchange in Milwaukee by TracyJ_Brown via Flickr.

[M]ost fatalities on the road are caused by speed, alcohol or other factors tied to driver inattentiveness or indifference, and spiffy new lanes and perfect pavement only makes these menaces more dangerous.

Twice in the last two weeks – – once on Madison’s beltline heading west and once in the gaudy new Marquette Interchange – – I was nearly sideswiped by motorists on my right who changed lanes without looking.

…I find the new Marquette more hazardous for motorists who want to exit westbound at 26th or 35 St. as they have to move quickly to the right into traffic coming from behind coming downhill from high ramps feeding in from the Hoan Bridge or I-43 south.

The new Marquette induces speeding — smooth pavement, gravity, the perception that the whole machine’s alleged efficiencies are there to make your trip faster have created a Death Valley in the interchange just past the Marquette University campus.

It’s the stupidity factor that kills people on the highways, and I am convinced that WisDOT’s rebuilding and redesigning schemes only make idiots more dangerous.

A recent article in Popular Mechanics came to a similar conclusion.

More from around the network: WashCycle writes about the advantages of lefty bike lanes; Cap’n Transit wonders what to do about transit labor costs; and the National Journal wonders whether reducing vehicle miles traveled should be a national transportation goal.

  • The National Journal article isn’t very good. The only respondent starts with the assumption “So long as road users pay the costs of their travel …” and he’s off to the races. He’s so very wrong. See Mark A. Delucci’s “Do motor vehicle users in the US pay their way?”, for starters.

    Their site doesn’t allow comments from the unwashed masses, so I’m left to point it out here.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

8 Monster Interchanges That Blight American Cities

|
Ramming highways through the middle of American cities was undoubtedly one of the worst mistakes of the 20th century — demolishing urban habitat, dividing neighborhoods, and erecting structures that suck the life out of places. What could be worse than a highway through the middle of town? How about when two highways intersect, with all […]

WisDOT Faces Civil Rights Suit Over $1.7 Billion “Zoo Interchange”

|
In the politically polarized Milwaukee region, there are two widely divergent visions of what transportation should do. There’s the Waukesha vision, which might be summarized as all highways, no transit. This suburban Republican stronghold — one of the most conservative counties in the country — has for years been systematically severing the already limited transit connections […]

Milwaukee Protesters Try to Halt Double-Decker Freeway

|
Monday night, as the Wisconsin DOT went through the motions of a Power Point presentation about the latest highway expansion it wants to gouge through Milwaukee, a groups of protesters outside the meeting shouted their frustration with an agency that has spent lavishly on roads to the exclusion of all other modes. The protesters’ message […]

Wisconsin Spends on Billion Dollar Interchanges While Potholes Swallow Roads

|
An excellent recent Politico article “Overpasses — A Love Story” — took a close look at the policies of Republican Presidential hopeful Scott Walker and his big, big spending on highway infrastructure in Wisconsin. It’s a pretty sick dynamic. Highway interchanges in the state are becoming increasingly astronomical in size and in cost. And all that spending on road expansion […]