That Ghost From The 50’s

Tube City, had a strange and very sad defence of the Mon-Fayette Expressway, if that’s what it was which was made much more interesting by the very good comments it generated.

OK, here’s the defence??

“Highways Are Rotten, But…: I can think of 1,000 reasons why highways are bad ideas:

They Squander Oil: Not only do we need oil to run the cars and trucks, we need oil to pave the darn highways. It’s really wasteful.

They’re Maintenance Headaches: As Joe Grata pointed out in the Post-Gazette a few weeks ago, whenever we build new roads or bridges, we leave the old ones intact. Thus we keep increasing our maintenance headaches and adding to the infrastructure we have to maintain. For that reason …

They Squander Tax Money: This should be obvious. We keep adding maintenance burdens faster than revenues can match them; liquid fuel taxes don’t cover a fraction of the cost of building, maintaining, and providing emergency services for highways.

They Enable Sprawl: Building highways allows population to disperse thinly throughout an area, which requires more infrastructure, which wastes more oil and tax money.”

Then the defence goes on to describe his fears about “peak oil” and ends up telling us to do it anyway because it’s the only thing we know how to do. It ends with the wish that somehow, the depressed towns of the Mon-valley will act as bedroom communities, even though Pittsburgh itself and the whole region have a surplus of housing.

Several of the commenter’s hit the nail on the head.


“You’ve got the name wrong: it’s the Mon Valley BYPASS. The entire project is a gift to developers who wish to turn Fayette County into Cranberry Twp. It will ensure that the Mon Valley is dead, forever and ever, as people zip pass it to their McMansions in Fayette. The whole purpose of exurban development is to exploit the resources of a city without paying for them. Need high-tech medical care? Sure thing, drive up to Pittsburgh. Want to put your kids in private school? Sure thing, drive up to Pittsburgh. Want to send them to college? Sure thing, drive up to Pittsburgh. Want to see a concert, attend a play, go to a ball game? Sure thing, drive up to Pittsburgh. Want to help pay for those things? No way, that’s why we live in (fill in the blank).”

Posted by: Traveler at September 4, 2007 12:49 PM

Brilliant essay. And damnably hard to dispute, also.
I suppose an alternate solution would be DON’T DO ANYTHING. I appreciate your point about our fetish for high speed highways right now … but is there any CLAMOR for more traffic between the regions it services? And if there is, what is the quality of the clamor?
And if you need another tiebreaker … these things cost money. LET’S RESOLVE TO DO NOTHING.

Posted by: Bram R at September 4, 2007 11:15 PM

Quote from a long comment

“The roads in the Mon Valley are crap largely because of the money that’s been diverted away from them for the Mon-Fayette. This one project has been on the books so long, and it’s sucked all the air out of any kind of land-use or transportation planning in the Valley — to the point where now it’s the only thing on the table.

The thing is, it’s not really on the table.

1. We can’t afford it. Floating a bond for $3.6 billion, which is what the MF leg to Pittsburgh/I376 would cost, would ultimately cost the Turnpike (and by extension, PA taxpayers) $235 million a year for 30 years. Getting Harrisburg to approve a toll on users of I-80 in order to raise just $750 million for highway/bridge maintenance and public transit STATEWIDE was like pulling eye-teeth, and even then the amount they approved was less than half what the Governor’s Transportation Funding & Reform Commission recommended as the minimum needed to just cover our asses, er, assets. No way will anyone be willing to sign on the dotted line for an additional $235 million/year for a project that will only “benefit” a small corner of the state. The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission had to put $19 billion worth of unmet maintenance and operations needs for roads, bridges and public transit on their “illustrative projects” list in the last long-range plan — stuff they wish they could do in the next 30 years, but they don’t have the money. It’s not a joke. The money really isn’t there.”

Posted by: Andrea at September 5, 2007 10:30 AM

The commenter named “Traveler” made I think the most meaningful comment in terms of Pittsburgh itself. The projects like this that have been done over the years have not in been to the benefit to the residents of Pittsburgh.

1 Comment so far

  1. Janet (unregistered) on September 13th, 2007 @ 2:30 pm

    Dude, you have a serious case of blog-arrhea!!! Posting whole entries (with freakin’ comments!!!) from other blogs is not necessary. Why not just post a link? Geesh!!

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