Cradle to Grave Transportation Planning: Road Widening

I attended a great meeting on Monday, September 27 at the Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments in Colorado Springs.  The topic of discussion in the Sustainability series was “Transportation“.  Many goals were offered as options in making transportation in the Pikes Peak region sustainable.  Some of the goals included transit options, materials, alternative/sustainable fuels, livable communities and holistic solutions.  All of the goals that were presented were fantastic.  Realistically if the region were to adopt and implement any of them accordingly, major positive changes would take effect in not only Colorado Springs, but also in our surrounding communities of Fountain, Manitou Springs, Monument and Woodland Park.

There are many opportunities in the Pikes Peak Region where a Road Diet, similar to the one shown above, are appropriate without new pavement. Source: Virginia DOT's Lawyers Rd Road Diet

I presented a goal (or potentially a strategy for a decrease vehicle miles traveled goal) that may seem radical or extreme, but I feel that it is something that needs to be accomplished to create the paradigm switch needed in the region.  My goal was stated as follows: “Place a moratorium on road widening between the years of 2015 and 2030.”

Later in the meeting, a new goal was proposed by PPACG Transportation Director, Craig Casper, which allowed me to remove my goal statement.  Mr. Casper’s goal statement is as follows:  “Maintain all transportation infrastructure in good or fair condition before public funds are expended to add additional capacity for private motor vehicles.”  His goal proposal is a brilliant one which brings to the forefront the real problem with roadway expansion.  Communities across the country have spent many dollars over time (when the communities had the money) in widening new roads, paving gravel roads and expanding highways.  These actions were done with the illusion that local governments would always have the money available to maintain them.  Unfortunately, it has caught up to all of us now and maintenance of our existing infrastructure has created an immense amount of debt.

A few months ago, I read an article about a rural county where in good economic times, the decision was made to pave (or asphalt) the gravel roadways.  Today, the maintenance of these roadways do not have funding and the result is a deteriorated asphalt road that is in worst shape that it would have been if it were still a gravel road.  The following are article links about this widespread issue:

Tight Times Put Gravel Back on the Roads (USA Today); Roads to Ruins: Towns Rip Up The Pavement (Wall Street Journal)

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