Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Boondoggle over the Bay

Some people just don't get the somewhat counter-intuitive truth that you can't build your way out of congestion because of induced demand from added capacity. Hogan who redirected Baltimore's Red Line funds to build more roads is one of them.

the two existing Bay Bridges
SoTuesday he drove together with MDOT Secretary to a nice photo opp on the shore of the Bay for a brief press conference in which he announced that he ordered a study for an additional bridge across the Bay, because the current one has too many back-ups which are projected to get even longer. (14 miles by 2040). Hogan admitted that a 2015 life-cycle study showed that the existing pair of bridges could be kept functional for another 50 years or so. But hey, what about that pesky congestion that already bothered Donald Schaefer so much ("reach the beach").
Scenic press conference and announcement

The first step which Hogan announced Tuesday is an initial environmental impact study under the federal National Environmental Protection Act NEPA. He has set aside $5 million to review alternatives and their environmental repercussions, a study that could take up to four years to complete. "I won't be Governor when that bridge gets completed" he quipped, "but I want to be the one who got it started". A slew of studies preceded him, in 2007 then MDOT Secretary even studied a transit only bridge (it brought only a 1.1% reduction for the car traffic).

History may not look so kindly on Hogan's initiative.

Not only is the current bridge the only thing that stands between the big metro areas of DC and Baltimore and the large farms on the Eastern Shore, because its capacity limits prevent even more people from moving their bedrooms into the rural areas that are still left east of the Bay. Already the first 15 miles or so along Route 50, which mutated under Schafer to being a freeway, have become overrun by sprawl, gas stations and outlet malls. It has become common knowledge that this pattern of roadway centered development is inefficient, bankrupts jurisdictions in the long run, and is environmentally not sustainable, not to mention rising sealevels. But our Governor doesn't like "smart growth".

The other thing that neither Hogan nor his expert secretary seem to take into account is that we are on the verge of a transportation revolution in the shape of autonomous vehicles. Experts differ whether it will be three or ten years until those will become common, but nobody doubts that they will come. Whether they come as privately owned cars or as fleet vehicles that people hire, they will no doubt increase existing road capacity by somewhere between 50-100% because self driving cars can be stacked closer together, reach uniform speeds, travel in platoons and altogether cause a lot less friction on the road. In other words, those projections about back-ups on the Bay Bridge may be just as obsolete as those 1860 projections how high horse maneuver would pile up in the streets of London by 1920.

Meanwhile Hogan can be sure to get the applause from some of his rural Republican constituents who want to make sure that some State money comes their way, from businesses in Ocean City who can never see enough beach goers flock to their town,  and from those in the "urban elite" who want to get to the beach as fast as possible. There is never a shortage of those who support shortsighted and ultimately failing policies. Luckily, in four years when this first study will be done it may be much
95,000 cars a day in 2040- not a problem with AVs
more obvious what the future of automobility will hold.

Maybe by then Kevin Plank will operate a fleet of hovercraft between Port Covington and Rock Hall and folks will have rediscovered the beauty of travelling right on the water.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Hogan also showed off a new license plat design ("I don't like those red white and blue War of 1812 signs") in which he confessed to have had a hand himself, even his wife did ("she is somewhat better in that stuff").
Definitely hard to read with all that competing black. 

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