A take on Malloy's plan to widen I-95
Be careful what you wish for. After years of pleading, we finally have Governor Malloy’s full attention on the problems of transportation. But his recently announced plan for the state sound like he’s been reading from the book of Moses ... Robert Moses, the NYC planner who never met a highway he didn’t like.
Governor Malloy has announced that he wants to widen our interstate highways. All of them, everywhere! “Look at New Jersey,” he said recently. “They were smart enough to build parallel highways to existing highways,” evoking images of the six-lane wide New Jersey Turnpike where cars and trucks run in their own lanes.
Great, perhaps, for the swamps of Secaucus, but Governor Malloy says he wants to replicate that on all of I-95 from Rhode Island to New York, adding lanes that would eat into some of the most expensive real estate in the country.
Imagine the decades of construction and the billions of dollars in cost. The exit 14 widening on I-95 in Norwalk alone cost $41 million and it’s still not done.
And once built, would adding an extra lane or two really solve congestion or would it just encourage more traffic? Wouldn’t a six lane I-95 actually potentially reduce ridership on Metro-North? Sorry Governor, super-sizing I-95 is not the answer.
Widening our highways is not viable environmentally or economically. It’s a non-starter that will see years of lawsuits while a better long-range solution sits right in front of us.
What we need to do is better utilize Metro-North, the railroad line that parallels I-95 for its entire length. We need to turn it into a suburban “subway” line.
If we increased train service from twice-an-hour off-peak to trains running every 10 to 15 minutes, you wouldn’t need to worry about a timetable. Just show up and catch the next train.
Why not take the billions you could waste on highway widening and instead add more trains and build more parking at the stations, giving riders better access to the truly rapid-transit? We have already invested billions into Metro-North, so why not finish the job?
Instead we are going to hear the Governor’s grandiose dreams of paving the state as the construction companies and unions see dollar signs in their eyes. The projected costs will be staggering. Many will love the ideas, but nobody will like the few painful alternatives to pay for them.
There will be the inevitable debate about tolls and where they should be placed ... at our borders or state-wide. Some will suggest we raise the gas tax. Maybe even offer privatized toll roads (or “Lexus lanes”).
Those are the wrong discussions. Instead of widening I-95, we should be widening use of an existing resource ... our rails. Let’s build the Fairfield County Subway.
Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com. For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see talkingtransportation.blogspot.com.