Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Streetsblog.net

Bypasses of Bypasses: A Case Study on Induced Sprawl From North Carolina

An old economic principle posits that if supply of a given item is increased, demand for said item also rises. And nowhere is this maxim more true, perhaps, than in the practice of highway building, where a billion dollar project to reduce congestion often itself becomes congested a few years after completion.

false

Unfortunately, this tendency is rarely considered by the transportation officials who continue to push for highway expansions, despite historic budget shortfalls and the lessons of experience.

So thank you, North Carolina, for providing this wonderful example of the hazards of induced demand. Many cities across this Southern coastal state have invested in highway bypasses only to find those very bypasses overrun with sprawl and congestion. In some cases, these towns are calling for bypasses of the very bypasses that were to reduce traffic.

The problem is so pronounced that the state's transportation secretary, Gene Conti, is drawing a line in the sand. This report is from Mary Newsom, an editor at the Charlotte Observer and creator of The Naked City blog:

The problem, of course, is that you can hardly go anywhere in North Carolina, or even in the country, and not find a state-taxpayer-built highway envisioned as a "bypass" that has become a traffic nightmare because the local government involved allowed extreme highway glop to be built along it. Even places as comparatively traffic free as Albemarle have clogged bypasses. Shelby wants a bypass of its bypass. They are all what former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory has referred to as "corridors of crap."

So, I asked Conti, should the state's taxpayers reward those towns with another new bypass?

His reply: "Well, no."

"All of us would benefit from a much greater collaboration on those growth issues," he said. He said the DOT is trying to work to bring local governments more into transportation discussions.

Don't expect the state to build your city a bypass to compensate for the existing bypass your local governments have glopped up, Conti said today. "Those days are gone," he said.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Cyclicio.us reviews the book "Driven to Kill: Vehicles as Weapons," a reflection on our violent, auto-centric culture and the laws that allow motorists to kill with relative impunity. M-Bike.org outlines Detroit Mayor Dave Bing's plans to use walkable development and bike infrastructure to help attract the kind of young professionals needed to remedy the city's economy. And Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space and the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia take a look at growing conservative opposition to livability and sustainable transportation.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Take Me to the River

Politico reports that the Biden administration is investing $2.5 billion in updating aging Mississippi River locks and dams like this one in Iowa. Transporting freight by barge produces less emissions than trucks or even rail.

July 12, 2024

Friday Video: Take a Spin on Boston’s Electric Cargo Bike Share

Can't afford a $7,000 Urban Arrow cargo e-bike ? In Boston, you can now rent one for just a few bucks.

July 12, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: Electrify the Rails

Adrianna Rizzo of Californians for Electric Rail on California's looming lobbyist-fueled hydrogen train mistake: "We’re locking in low service for potentially decades."

July 11, 2024

Thursday’s Headlines Drive Less

Seems obvious that the more people drive, the more likely they are to die in a crash or kill someone else, but traditional thinking on traffic safety doesn't always follow that logic, according to Planetizen.

July 11, 2024
See all posts