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E-M:/ Road Widenings

Enviro-Mich message from Kelly Thayer <kelly@mlui.org>

Sept. 22, 1999
Contact: Kelly Thayer
Michigan Land Use Institute
                                         231-882-4723 ext. 13

Other Contacts:
*Karen Kendrick-Hands, Transportation Riders United, Grosse Pointe Park,
(313) 885-7588 
*Thom Peterson, Committee for Alternatives to the Bypass, (616) 846-8875
*Barbara McCann, Surface Transportation Policy Project, (202) 974-5134

Road Widening Is a Big Waste of Time

The Surface Transportation Policy Project is releasing a report Thursday
concluding that motorists can lose more time in road-widening delays than
they will save in years of driving on the newly "improved" road. 

The full report can be read on the Internet at:  

While its case studies do not mention Michigan, the report has particular
relevance to Detroit, Grand Haven-Holland, and Traverse City, where state
and local agencies are proposing road widenings as "solutions" to congestion.

Below is a press release about the report and its relevance to Michigan's

Report Finds Some Road Widening Projects Not Worth the Wait
MDOT Could Spend $1.3 billion to Widen Only 11 miles of I-94

A new report finds that motorists can lose more time in road-widening
delays than they will save in years of driving on the newly "improved"
road. The national report, "Road Work Ahead: Is Construction Worth the
Wait?" by the Surface Transportation Policy Project, uses case studies to
examine whether road expansion projects are ultimately worth the wait for

The full report can be read on the Internet at

The study found that construction delays can be so long, and the time
savings from the expanded road so small, that it can take years for
commuters to break even.

In the case of the Springfield Interchange reconstruction outside of
Washington D.C., commuters are projected to never make up the time that
they will lose during the eight years of construction. Drivers now sitting
through the construction of I-15 in Salt Lake City are not expected to
break even on their time investment until 2010, eight years after the
project is completed.

"These case studies show that the pain of expanding roads may not be
matched by a gain in commuting time," says STPP Executive Director Roy
Kienitz.  "Communities considering expensive, time-consuming and
inconvenient construction projects should think long and hard about whether
more roads are really the answer to their congestion problems."

In addition to the delays caused by road widening projects, the added
highway space also can attract more drivers, a phenomenon known as "induced
travel."  This can reduce any time saving benefits even further.  In one of
the case studies, I-15 in Utah, STPP found that in just ten years such
extra traffic could slow rush-hour travel to pre-construction speeds.

The STPP report recommends that transportation officials tell citizens how
road building plans will affect their commute, and that construction delays
be taken into account in calculating the benefits of roads.   It also
suggests methods to reduce congestion delays as well alternative ways to
fight congestion.

"The report shows the drawbacks of using road widening as the primary
solution to easing congestion." says Kelly Thayer, transportation project
coordinator for the Michigan Land Use Institute, which co-released the
report. "Widening roads causes enormous delays, costs millions or billions
of taxpayer dollars, leads to more air and water pollution and sprawl, and
ultimately does not relieve congestion in the long term.
'The Michigan Department of Transportation first should try fighting
congestion in ways that are less expensive, more effective, and help
drivers right now. Michigan should better maintain existing roads, increase
train and bus service, and build communities so people can drive less."  

In Detroit, MDOT is considering reconstructing 11 miles of I-94, which
includes four miles of interchanges with the Lodge Freeway (M-10) and I-75.
The estimated cost - $1.3 billion - places it among the most expensive
highway reconstruction projects in the nation, according to highway engineers.
As much as 20% of the project's budget, or $260 million, would be spent
just to manage traffic during construction. The traffic management portion
alone is nearly $100 million more than the state will contribute this year
to public transportation agencies throughout Michigan. It also is twice the
price of building a commuter rail network in Detroit with three routes -
connected to Ann Arbor, Pontiac, and Mount Clemens - 100 miles of track,
and 30 stations, according to a recent MDOT study. Such a system could
serve nearly 20,000 passengers a day and cost just $23.4 million a year to

In addition to the $1.3 billion for expanding I-94, MDOT has slated $950
million more for road widening through 2003. MDOT's wider roads agenda
presents a particularly dire scenario for Detroit, where 32% of households
have no motor vehicles.

In June, MDOT sent about 15,000 surveys to businesses, residents and
employees as part of its $1.4 million study to improve access to downtown
Detroit and the east riverfront area. Survey responses from more than 2,000
motorists showed that most people support providing new public transit over
building more roads to relieve congestion.

Just this month, the state acknowledged that alternatives to new and wider
roads benefit Michigan. "An increase in transportation options is good news
for Michigan's economy and provides a broader array of transportation
options for the state's job providers," said Doug Rothwell, President and
CEO of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, on Sept. 16. Mr.
Rothwell was speaking in support of a new railroad freight terminal in
downtown Detroit.
MEDC and MDOT should apply the same thinking to transportation for
residents of Michigan as well, said the Institute's Mr. Thayer.
"Michigan should invest more in public transit - both bus and light rail -
to move goods and people," said Mr. Thayer. "The benefits to residents are
enormous: huge taxpayer savings, cleaner air, more open space, less time
spent stuck in traffic, and greater safety."
Rail vs. Asphalt

For Fiscal Responsibility, There's No Contest 
Alternative	 Dollars Per Mile
Old Rail …………  $700,000  Convert an old rail line for modern service.
Modern Rail……..$1.2 million  Build a modern rail line.
2-lane Highway…$7 million     Build a two-lane rural highway(Petoskey Bypass)
4-lane Highway…$11.7 million Build a 4-lane rural highway(Grand Haven-Holland)
Reroute Traffic…$23.6 million Reroute traffic for I-94 widening project in
Wayne Co.
I-94 Widening……$118 million  Widen 7 miles of 1-94 by one lane each way.
Source: Great Lakes Bulletin, Michigan Land Use Institute

In addition to supporting public transit, taxpayer money spent on new and
wider roads should be redirected to improve the appalling condition of the
Michigan's road network. 

Motorists in Southeast Michigan travel the most punishing roads in the
United States, according to a national study. Detroit-Ann Arbor regional
drivers pay the most in the entire country to repair road-inflicted damage
to their cars: $1,416 each in lifetime car repairs, according to a 1998
study by STPP. That translates to a combined car repair cost of $210
million a year to southeast Michigan motorists; the rest of the state's car
owners shell out nearly $100 million more per year.

The Michigan Department of Transportation is proposing a 27-mile, $315
million bypass of U.S. 31 between Grand Haven and Holland. In addition, the
state is considering $270 million plans to widen the existing U.S. 31
through Grand Haven to six lanes.

The STPP report's overall conclusions suggest that the traffic delays
caused by construction of roads such as the Grand Haven-Holland bypass and
U.S. 31 widening would, at best, take years for motorists to recover in
future time savings.

And if the new bypass and widened U.S. 31 ever were completed, more traffic
would quickly fill up the added roadway space. This is according to
government and private researchers across the nation, who are drawing the
same conclusion: new and widened roads do not relieve congestion, but
attract more cars and make it worse.

Three prominent studies in as many years chronicle the connection between
new and wider roads and more driving, a phenomenon called "induced traffic"
or "induced travel." The research concludes that building roads to solve
congestion is a paradox that leaves communities more crowded, more
polluted, with less open space and money for civic projects, and with no
alternative for residents stuck in traffic.

Concerned citizens hope the latest research can spur better transportation
planning that emphasizes public transit rather than new roads and more
congestion. The findings are compellingly consistent:
	o In January 1999, Robert Noland, an analyst with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency, reported results of a study on induced traffic using
data from 1984-1996 for all 50 states. His conclusion: Several years after
a road's space is expanded by 10%, traffic increases by 7% to 10%, filling
up the added room.
	o In November 1998, a report by the Surface Transportation Policy Project
compared 15 years of data compiled by the Texas Transportation Institute on
70 U.S. metropolitan areas that added extensive new road space with those
that did not. While the urban areas that added lanes spent roughly $22
billion more on construction, their traffic congestion afterwards was
nearly identical to that of areas that did not expand their road systems. 
	o In 1997, University of California-Berkeley researchers studied data
covering 30 urban counties in California from 1973 to 1990. They found that
every 10% increase in road space generated a 9% rise in traffic over four
years, eliminating the expected benefit of a new or widened road.

In addition to the $1.3 billion it would cost to expand I-94 in Detroit,
MDOT has slated $950 million more for road widening through 2003. MDOT is a
partner with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission in studying a
30-mile, estimated $300 million bypass around Traverse City that would
involve new and widened roads.

As a key link in the Traverse City bypass, the Grand Traverse County Road
Commission is proposing to widen Hartman, Hammond, and Three Mile Roads to
four- and five-lanes, and to link Hartman and Hammond roads with a
four-lane bridge.

The STPP report's overall conclusions suggest that the traffic delays
caused by construction of roads such as the Hartman-Hammond bridge and
bypass would, at best, take years for motorists to recover in future time
savings. In addition, the Road Commission's own nearly $500,000 study shows
that traffic on the Hartman-Hammond bypass would virtually match the
congestion that exists today on heavily traveled South Airport Road. And,
as sprawl spreads out along the widened Hartman-Hammond road, motorists
accessing businesses will trigger more stop-and-start traffic.

"Taken together, the data suggests that widening and connecting Hartman and
Hammond roads is a recipe for more traffic, more delays, more sprawl, and
more expense for taxpayers," said Mr. Thayer. "The STPP report is one more
confirmation of what the Institute, the Coalition for Sensible Growth, and
hundred of residents of the Grand Traverse region have been saying for
years: wider roads alone cause more congestion, not less."

As an alternative to its Hartman-Hammond proposal, the Grand Traverse
County Road Commission has proposed widening South Airport Road to six
lanes, an unprecedented size in northwest Michigan. As the STPP report
suggests, this plan also would bring about enormous delays during
construction that might never recovered by the widened road.

The Institute and the Coalition have helped to develop a better plan,
called Smart Roads: Grand Traverse Region, that seeks to remedy traffic
problems by redesigning current roads, improving public transit, and
promoting urban growth in already developed areas.

"Road Work Ahead: Is Construction Worth the Wait?" is released by the
Washington, D.C.-based Surface Transportation Policy Project along with the
help of local organizations, including the Michigan Land Use Institute in
The Surface Transportation Policy Project is a non-profit, public interest
coalition of over 200 groups devoted to ensuring that transportation policy
and investments help conserve energy, protect environmental and aesthetic
quality, strengthen the economy, promote social equity, and make
communities more livable. 

The Michigan Land Use Institute is an independent, non-profit research,
educational and service organization founded in 1995. The institute's
mission is to establish an approach to economic development that
strengthens communities, enhances opportunity and protects Michigan's
unmatched natural resources.

Kelly Thayer
Transportation Project Coordinator
Michigan Land Use Institute
P.O. Box 228
845 Michigan Ave.
Benzonia, MI 49616
Ph: 231-882-4723
Fax: 231-882-7350
E-mail: kelly@mlui.org

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