October 24, 1992
Re: I-80 expansion is a big mistake!
To the Editor:
Contrary to statements by "highway terrorists" such as developer-funded MTC Chairman Steve Weir, widening I-80 is not good for either the economy, employment, or the environment.
Waste is never good for the economy. Highway construction is wasteful, because both goods and people can be moved much more cheaply by rail and public transit than by private automobile. A single rail line can carry the equivalent of approximately 10 freeway lanes, while causing much less damage to the environment.
Steve said that we would lose the highway funds if we don't spend them on I-80. But he failed to mention that under the new federal transportation bill, ISTEA, there is just as much money available for transit.
It is well known that building public transit provides more jobs, higher quality jobs (less labor-intensive), and longer-lasting jobs (e.g. bus drivers and train operators) than does freeway construction. The overwhelming success of the Capitol trains shows that there is a huge unmet demand for train service in the I-80 corridor.
I wonder if there are any people left on the Earth who still fall for that old highway lobby myth about freeways improving air quality?! An argument that only a developer (or a developer's politician, like Steve) could love. It is obvious to any thinking person that expanding the highway system can only encourage more and longer-distance driving, and conversely, removing pavement is the best way to discourage driving and hence improve air quality.
A year after we choose to expand our rail system, people will wonder how we could ever have thought that paving over more of our precious bayside was a good thing to do!
Michael J. Vandeman,