Our State Religion

16 thoughts on “Our State Religion”

  1. How’s this for crazy: Caltrans considering replacing otherwise perfectly serviceable highway bridges to accommodate extra heavy mega-trucks. At $1.5 trillion for three I-5 bridges close to downtown Sacramento. To make freight transit more “efficient”, and avoid detours around the city for a few hundred monster vehicles per day.

    ‘State may tear down major Sacramento bridges to build bigger ones for mega-trucks’

  2. Taste considerations aside (and I find that people, especially left-leaning but often right leaning people as well) try very hard and cleverly to dress up their taste considerations (and my tastes in the urban realm are very similiar to yours, Mr. Johnny, though I think I probably appreciate a broader variety. I also have a bit of ADD/Wanderlust so if I ever found Paradise, it wouldn’t be long before I yearned for another paradise or even a visit to Purgatory.) —— but this general thesis only makes sense if one keeps the 1960s-1970s view of the “Houstonization” of America’s big cities as an unsustainable exurban growth economically dependent on an urban core. One of Joel Kotkin’s main thesises is that left to their own devices, these places morph into multi-nodal mega regions like L.A. and modern Houston and Dallas Fort Worth. There’s a post on the New Geography site about how the road from Austin to San Antonio is becoming one of the most economically vibrant new areas of the country…. Many of these places actually have LOWER than average commute times, because workers don’t work in the dense urban core unless they live in that part of the city. This is starting to happen in Northern Virginia where I lived for two years where the appalling lack of planning that intially developed the region (save Reston and Old Town Alexandria) is gradually being redeveloped into denser nodes surrounded by traditional suburbs. Even back in 2005, when I lived there, people just across the river from D.C. were traveling into the city less and less because “Main Streets” like Shirlington and Crystal City were not only more convientenent, but also one avoided parking issues, higher meals taxes, high likely hoods of being touched by crime, etc. We personally started avoiding D.C. entirely accept for matters of business (D.C. People didn’t like to leave THERE, either) or showing visitors sites. Increasingly, formally sterile places are being redeveloped into pleasant downtowns with the bonus of ample parking. My wife and I had an epiphany once driving in a rural part of Northern Jersey when we passed a cool unused old brick compound of some kind right off the highway but surrounded by fallow fields of rolling hills. My wife has telecommuted for YEARS and really only needed an airport, post office, grocery store. Why not develop a place and market it as a “Telecommuting village?” You could have common areas for home-schooling, movie nights, etc — you’d have none of the problems of urban life, taxes would be lower than in a suburb, etc, etc as lomg as there’s a good airport not too far away. Now, I do not imagine a future where everyone works from home, but it likely would work wonderfully for some people.

  3. If you haven’t photographed it already, you might check out the Orange County and Riverside County freeway systems. I-5 is being widened to 12 lanes wide, from the San Diego County border northward, through most, if not all, of Orange County (i.e. Irvine). SR-91 is being widened to 10 (?) or maybe even 12 lanes from Orange County into Riverside County. Riverside County is projected to grow to well over 3 million people.

  4. What’s really sad about the new I-71 MLK interchange is that they expect it to spark a wave of high-density pedestrian-oriented development leading to a renaissance of the downtrodden Avondale neighborhood. Because you know, 10 lane highway feeders are great places to walk and to have buildings right up against the sidewalks.

  5. I was recently in the outer reaches of Roseville (an upscale exurb of Sacramento) on a Craiglist pick-up. Driving along wide smooth new roads for miles and miles out into the flatlands, we entered a brand-new subdivision. The houses were big but not tacky. Golf course quality grass in those parks. Kids walking to and fro. The air smelled of fresh lavender from the tasteful drought-tolerant landscaping… Pleasantville indeed. Available now from the $400s…

    I fell into a sort of lull. Hey, the suburbs aren’t so bad… If we sold our house and moved out here… but then I snapped out of it. It’s a 20 minute drive to the freeway (or any store for that matter). It’s Ex-exurban. And to think people actually commute 2.5 hours each way into the Bay Area from these kind of places. Insane waste of capital, brought to you courtesy of Caltrains, DOT… your tax dollars at work.

  6. It’s also a religion in the sense that the benefits of these actions need to be taken on faith. Please don’t analyze whether spending $1.1 billion to widen I-405 through the Sepulveda Pass (a time savings gain, at best, averaging 45 seconds per vehicle, but most likely far less) or $1.3 billion to widen SR-91 from Orange County to Riverside (to get an increase in rush hour vehicle speed of 1.5 mph by Caltrans’ own estimates) were/are the best ways to spend those funds “improving” transportation in Southern California. The sacred scriptures (i.e. project study reports) prove that it was/is. Oh, and if you don’t have blind faith in the religion and instead keep questioning it, you will be branded a heretic….

  7. Love the photos! I agree that all this road widening is an unproductive use of our money. I don’t think you’re right that there’s something per se wrong with “conjuring money out of the ether.” IF we use it for productive projects, great! If for damaging projects like these, that’s bad. But printing money (or conjuring it up on computers as we do now) doesn’t seem to me necessarily a bad thing, and in fact I think we could probably have done a bit more of it in recent years. Thanks for the post.

    1. During the Great Depression economists argued that even if we (collectively, using Federally-printed dollars) paid unemployed workers to dig ditches, then other workers to fill them in, that the productivity in the economy came from supporting those workers’ families and all the landlords and stores where they spent their paychecks.

      Likewise with non-permanent infrastructure construction (and it’s all non-permanent unless it’s built like the Roman Colosseum): those highway workers bought trucks and houses and lunches and dinners, and paid taxes to all levels of government just as their fathers and grandfathers did in the 50s/60s (when those interstates were first built) and the 80s/90s (when they were largely rebuilt the first time after they wore out). This rebuild cycle is likely to last longer because it’s the only thing both major parties can agree on spending money for.

      1. Which MIGHT make sense (debatable) if there weren’t possible envitpronmental costs. I think we could ALL agree there is a mor productive use for labor, such as the Hoover dam or the beuautiful WPA/CCC infrastructure in parks across the country…

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