California: More Highways if You Want Them or Not

| Tue Mar. 27, 2007 8:14 PM EDT

highways.jpgHumans have a really hard time planning for outcomes that feel abstract. Here we are 90 percent sure that we're destroying the planet and ourselves with it, and we're conducting business as usual.

One tough, but supremely logical, change we ought to be making is redirecting all money spent on road construction to mass transit systems and smart growth projects. (Even the greatest road warrior wouldn't complain about not being able to drive his SUV if there were a cheap, easy way to get where he was going.) The State of California, which touts itself as an environmental leader, is doing exactly the reverse. The state, whose efforts to build and expand highways have long been stymied by environmental lawsuits, has begun suing developers for money they say will mediate (i.e., accommodate on roads) the increased traffic their projects will generate. The state is using the lawsuits as a funding source—which might be fair if the suits weren't targeting smart growth projects designed to be accessible by mass transit.

Good news is, developers are irate and are lobbying Governor Schwarzenegger to stop his renegade agency. Looks like we'll get to see just how powerful developers are after all.

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