Putting money into public transit makes more sense [UPDATED]Published 9:20am Thursday, March 21, 2013 Updated 11:25am Thursday, March 21, 2013
There has been talk at the Capitol the past few days about pushing decision-makers in Washington and St. Paul to fast-track a project that would add lanes to Interstate 94 between the Twin Cities and St. Cloud. While that may sound good to the thousands who make that trek daily between their homes and jobs or, like those in Fergus Falls who must traverse that stretch enroute to the metro area, it is nevertheless a bad idea.
For as long as anyone can remember, transportation planners have been adding lanes to metro area freeways. Yet as anyone who has driven in the region will attest, traffic congestion is still a major problem.
It doesn’t take much thought to figure out that adding freeway lanes just encourages more driving, and the extra lanes quickly become just as clogged as the old ones.
The real answer to metro traffic congestion is to enhance public transportation. When the availability of commuter rail and other services balances the agony of a daily drive, automobile traffic will begin to diminish.
But as long as the state and nation keep buying more lanes, this balance will never be reached.
Some proponents of interstate lane additions cite the jobs the project would bring. That is a nonsensical argument. Building a public transportation network would provide just as many jobs and perhaps more.
Widening freeways is an old-fashioned approach to a problem which needs new solutions. We hope the planners in St. Paul will ignore pleas to widen I-94 in the metro area in favor of more sustainable and more sensible solutions.