Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Building More Capacity is No Way to Cut Down Green House Gases, Congestion--Or, For That Matter, Aggravation

"It'll reduce green house gases because people won't be stuck in traffic," Quebec's Finance Minister Monique Jérôme-Forget said earlier this week when announcing that the provincial government has just signed on for a new expressway bridge from Montreal island to the suburban island of Laval to the north.

The 7.2 kilometer span on Autoroute 25 will run from a major arterial to Autoroute 440 which runs east and west across Laval. It will be built by a private-public consortium, the first of its kind here. A $2.40 toll will be charged during rush hours, which will drop to $1.80 during off hours.

Jérôme-Forget's statement about the environmentally-friendly nature of the bridge--it also will have bike lanes--is simply nonsense, retorted André Porlier, executive director of the regional environment council (le Conseil régional de l'environnement or CRE. ) The council and other environment groups have already launched proceedings against the provincial government over the way an earlier environmental impact consultation on the bridge project was held. Pollution isn't reduced by making it easier for cars to travel into the city, Porlier said, adding "they’ve pushed us in a corner, and it’s just possible that we’ll ask for an injuction.”

Bridge maintenance will be guaranteed for 35 years, Jérôme-Forget said over and over in radio interviews as the project was announced. But of course problems with bridges and highways here and elsewhere (think Minneapolis) only start after about 35 or 40 years, so the guarantee seems not that great a deal.

More to the point, it’s not clear just how needed this new bridge is. Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay was not present at the announcement, apparently because the city would rather see money go into public transit than into more freeways bringing cars into the city.

Furthermore, recent research done by University of California at Los Angeles Institute of Transportation Studis suggests that congestion is only temporarily reduced when more capacity is added, although observers noted as far back as the 1900 that the first Paris Métro line did absolutely nothing to cut down on traffic on the surface. It is a case of "If you build it, they will come, and keep coming, and coming, and coming..."

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