The Biggest Boondoggle?
"The Manhattan Institute’s Aaron Renn blogged last week that a new pair of bridges across the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana is the “biggest boondoggle of the 21st century.” Renn calls these $1.3 billion bridges a boondoggle because they doubled the capacity of the previous Interstate 65 bridge across the river, yet after they opened traffic declined by nearly 50 percent.
Traffic fell this much because the states decided to pay for the new bridges partly by tolling them. This pushed traffic to other nearby bridges that remain untolled. As a traffic survey makes clear — but Renn glosses over — overall cross-river traffic grew just as the states predicted when they decided new bridges were needed. So the problem is not that the bridges weren’t needed but that the other bridges remain unpriced."
The takeaway from this should have been 1. The government is incompetent to plan things like transit and transportation, and so should not. 2. If tolls are going to be laid, there must be no alternatives around the tolls.
The first is unassailable; the government is incompetent because it is run by incompetent and unproductive people looking for sinecure not work.
The second seems to have been lost on the Antiplanner even though he points it out in the body of the article since he goes on:
"That political reality may change. Oregon seems intent on applying congestion pricing to significant stretches of Interstates 5 and 205 in Portland. If they get the pricing right, the reduction in congestion could significantly increase the region’s livability. Once people see the benefits, they may find tolling of other existing roads and bridges more acceptable."
Huh? If they charge a toll people will just avoid the toll unless every other road is tolled, that was the lesson we just learned. Bridges can be tolled provided that there are no nearby free alternatives, but roads like I-5 have myriad alternatives in Oregon. Tolling I-5 and I-205 will just push more autos off the safer freeways and on to the more dangerous arterials, sub-arterials, and smaller roads. The real problem is this will cause an increase in even residential roads of people trying to make time; this is a very bad situation.
The Antiplanner should know better, but he is hidebound by his desire to see widespread tolling of roadways.
The self-drive car will minimize many of these problems by allowing road tax to be attributed to the roads used not just to a scattershot gasoline tax. It will also finally kill transit as a highway funding reducer.
Speaking of boondoggles:
"In any case, even if congestion pricing of Ohio River bridges could have prevented the need for new bridges, the $1.3 billion spent on those bridges is hardly the biggest boondoggle of the 21st century. For completed works, I’d have to say that Los Angeles’ $2.4 billion Expo light-rail line extension, which saw a loss of more than 15 bus riders for every new light-rail rider, would be far ahead of the Ohio River bridges."
How did Ohio get two bridges for $1.3 billion which carry auto traffic? Portlandia has a bridge which cost $1.5 (includes 7 miles of light rail line) which was part of the 7-mile long Milwaukie light rail line. It also carries a few buses and bikes! It does not carry auto traffic. This is one of the most underutilized bridges in history. Except at rush hour, 1 hour in each direction, no one much travels over this bridge. This bridge was an epic boondoggle.
The self-drive car will soon mitigate the need for tolls, gasoline tax, the like. Let's not build expensive infrastructure like toll booths and islands to solve a self-solving problem. Let's let this play itself out for now.