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Our Interstates At 50: A Midlife Crisis?

June 21, 2006 Events/Meetings, Public Transit, Transportation 8 Comments

Tomorrow the Missouri Department of Transportation will be holding a pro-highway construction love fest in Columbia MO. The event, Our Interstates At 50: A Midlife Crisis Public Policy Forum, is predictably going to tell us why we need the road equivalent of a fancy new sports car, hair implants and young trophy spouse.

JEFFERSON CITY – Retired U.S. Gen. and NBC News Analyst Barry McCaffrey will join state and national transportation leaders in a discussion about the past, present and future of Missouri’s interstate system at a public policy forum scheduled for June 22 at the University of Missouri-Columbia. McCaffrey, a national infrastructure expert who also serves as HNTB Federal Services Chairman, will speak at 12:30 p.m.

The forum, sponsored by the Missouri Department of Transportation and the university’s Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs, is being held in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the nation’s interstates.

What is really telling is the list of panel sessions and who they’ve invited as panelists. Don’t look for any smart growth folks or someone from the Sierra Club!

The Impact of the Interstate Highway System; Moderator: Bob Priddy, Missourinet

• Mary Ann Naber, Federal Highway Administration
• Allen Masuda, Federal Highway Administration
• Bill Ankner, Missouri Transportation Institute
• Charlie Nemmers, UMC College of Engineering

The Interstates Today: Where We Are, Where We Need To Be; Moderator: Jerry Mugg, HNTB

• Frank Moretti, TRIP (The Road Information Program)
• Marty Romitti, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, Department of Economic Development
• Hal Kassoff, Parsons Brinckerhoff

The Future of the Interstate: Strategies for Success; Moderator: Kevin Keith, MoDOT

• Mary Peters, HDR Incorporated
• Shirley Ybarra, Ybarra Group
• Bob Heitmann, Zachry American Infrastructure
• Daniel L. Rust, Center for Transportation Studies, UMSL
• Chris Gutierrez, Kansas City SmartPort

Look for them all to congratulate each other and to those prior generations for being so forward thinking. Then they will tell us we are facing a critical situation and need to invest billions more in our highway infrastructure. We bought it 50 years ago based on the Cold War and being able to evacuate the cities quickly in case of nuclear threat. Of course, we did evacuate our cities just over a period of several decades.

You can read the two-page press release here.

Speaking of billions on highway projects, have you heard about the new highway from Mexico to Canada????

A MASSIVE road four football fields wide and running from Mexico to Canada through the heartland of the United States is being proposed amid controversy over security and the damage to the environment.

The “nation’s most modern roadway”, proposed between Laredo in Texas and Duluth, Minnesota, along Interstate 35, would allow the US to bypass the west coast ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to import goods from China and the Far East into the heart of middle America via Mexico, saving both cost and time.

According to the article in the Scotsman, construction may start on the Texas portion as early as next year.

The Texas section, called the Trans-Texas Corridor, would create separate lanes for trucking as well as provide rail corridor for passenger & freight service. To me this smacks of road interests teaming up with the trucking industry to “invest” in our future. The entire necessary right of way exceeds 1,000ft. That is huge! Out in corn fields it is no big deal I suppose but as you approach urbanized areas, such as along I-35, you are going to cause major problems.

From the anti Trans-Texas Corridor site CorridorWatch:

The Corridor plan is designed to provide transportation funds, more than transportation. Rather than identify specific transportation needs and offer solutions, the Plan defines funding as the need and the Corridor as the solution. Accordingly it’s not important where the Corridor is built, as long as it generates revenue.

Likely a valid point. I think many big projects these days are designed around funding more so than actually need to solve a problem.

– Steve


Currently there are "8 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    Interstates are like Wal-Mart . . . they’re the target of a lot snide remarks by the “more-enlightened” members of society, but there’s a reason they’re everywhere – they do what they’re supposed to do, efficiently, if not elegantly! Could they be better? Better looking? Of course! It just takes money, and the politicians (and most taxpayers) want to stretch their tax dolars as far as possible . . .

    Bottom line, America continues to grow, as it has since it was founded. Transportation (of all kinds) is both a reason for our high standard of living and something we need to continue investing in. The hidden challenge of both growth and sprawl is that it increases transportation demands geometrically (not linearly). As I’ve said before, the only way we won’t see a need for more of everything is to have zero population growth . . . and as St. Louis has experienced since the ’50’s, that ain’t necessarily a good thing . . .

  2. Benton Park says:

    In promoting the responsible use of our tax dollars for public and light rail systems we can sway the abandonment of funding these vehicles of urban sprawl so the 50 year old hi-way system can experience the empty nester syndrome.

  3. Joe Frank says:

    What we need are more transportation choices! Railroads are still a viable option for transporting freight! Why not invest in a north-south route upgrade on the BNSF?

    I was heartened to see that, when I searched for “I-35 Corridor” I got info about a study by Johnson County (Kansas) transit regarding potential commuter rail.


    Of course, BNSF was a substantial barrier to such plans, as I suspect they (and UP) would be in the StL metro area as well.

  4. matt says:

    my lord !!! – are there going to be any cognisant urban planners there?

  5. matt says:

    about the JoCo commuter rail – people gain enough satisfaction from talking in circles about it around here, that they figure they don’t need to actually implement it.

  6. SMSPlanstu says:

    Does Kansas have the money for light or commuter rail? It would be great if they could build rail in Kansas City, KS; Overland Park; Lenexa; and Oleatha.

    Nice work reporting on this mid-life highway forum which even as a planning student and MO and US APA member I was not aware of.

  7. travis reems says:


    It reads as if you are against all highways. Do you not see the need for highways?

    By the way, I also don’t see a need for a new Canada to Mexico highway, as there is already one, not nearly as large, that goes through California, I believe from Alaska (or close) to the southern-most part of Mexico.

    Joe and SMSPlanstu:

    As a KC native, I’ll tell you that will never happen. Johnson County, Kansas (formerly one of the richest in the nation per capita) doesn’t even have a functional public transit system. The Kansas City metro area, like the St. Louis metro area, spans two states, but unlike St. Louis, the KC Bus system (as there is no subway or light-rail) doesn’t serve both sides of state line. Frankly, if you have Missouri plates, you get pulled over in certain (older) parts of Johnson County.

  8. Tyson says:

    When discussing the ever-expanding funding for highway building in our country, it’s always enlightening to keep in mind a quote from the highway-builder extrodinaire from New York, Robert Moses:

    “We wouldn’t have any American economy without the automibile business. That’s literally true. This is a great industry that has to go on and has to keep turning out cars and trucks and buses, and there have to be places for them to run. There have to be modern roads, modern arteries. Somebody’s got to build them. And in order to get those things done, and done properly, people must be inconvenienced who are in the way.”

    I love that final line…people must be “inconvenienced”.

    The culture of the automobile is self-perpetuating. More highways = more cars = more highways.


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