Sunday, March 13, 2016

Decide now about 2050 road work

Returning from a day trip to Ohio last night, driving through Pittsburgh at 4 a.m., I blew through the Fort Pitt Tunnel at 60 mph (itself a strange thing), and once again experienced "The Pittsburgh Effect" [of seeing ALL of downtown, kablamallatonce in front of you, coming out of the tunnel]. Then, of course, to get home, I proceeded up I-279.

To get from the Fort Pitt and Fort Duquesne Bridges to the I-279 Parkway North mainline, you traverse about a mile of elevated bridges and pass under about 10 other elevated bridge decks. We've probably sunk most of a billion dollars into all those ramps and streets and bridges over the last 40, 50 years, and in 40, 50 years they are all going to have to undergo major rehab, again at the cost of today's most of a billion dollars.  It all got built between about 1970 and 1995, and is already 20 to 40 years old. Keeping roads and bridges in good repair costs money. Big money.

So what if we don't. How about, in about 2045, we just tear down the whole damned thing, and not rebuild a single bit of it? The whole of the 28-279-65 fustercluck, just level it. Make it damn near impossible to get a car through there at all. You want to get downtown, leave your car two miles away and use whatever transit system we've put in place. I understand you need your car to get out of your neighborhood, but we don't want it downtown, or anywhere near downtown. Cities are for people, not your cars.

Sure, we'll need to drop another two billion into expanding a subway various directions from where it goes now, but fine, say we do that. Money isn't important; we're going to drop billions into maintenance, repair, and rebuilding something anyway. But decide in 2016 that by 2050, the whole damned thing is doomed and we aren't going to replace it *then*. I'm not talking about dropping a bomb on it now. Time and salt and 20 billion wheels crossing them will accomplish the same thing while we stand there defending and cheering for the process.

Yeah but how will we get to the airport? You take the subway we extended up through Bellevue and Sewickley in 2025, that's how. Yeah but how will we get to the stadiums? Same way you get downtown. Park two miles away and transit or walk or bike. For something a tad short of $100 million over the next 25 years, we can probably make cycling easier to do.

This is exactly what's happening in Buffalo, Rochester (NY), Syracuse, Cleveland, and a bunch of other Rust Belt cities. Huge projects built in the 1950s and 1960s are falling apart, and instead of fixing them, they're tearing them down. Pittsburgh just got a late start on this and only finished them in the 1990s. Apply the same timeline, though -- 60 and change years, maybe 75, 80 -- and we'll have to make some decisions. 

All I'm saying is, right now, decide not to replace all that stuff then, and spend the next couple of decades figuring out how to live without it when that time comes.

1 comment:

  1. Instead of dropping 10-digit sums in 25-40 years rebuilding bridge systems we built 25-40 years ago, we could plan not to do that. Decide right now to scrap them and start building their replacements.