Stop the Madness: New Thinking Needed for Prioritizing Transportation Projects

For architecture critic Inga Saffron, a $900 million project to improve a South Jersey interchange illustrates the madness of transportation funding priorities.
April 3, 2013, 5am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Sure, a pricey project to reconstruct the "chaotic" Camden County interchange where Interstates 295 and 76 converge with Route 42 should reduce accidents. But for the equivalent of 75 percent of SEPTA's entire annual operating budget, is fixing this problematic interchange the best way to spend increasingly scarce transportation dollars?

The project has Saffron asking tough questions that deserve to be considered: "So, where do we start drawing the line on road costs? Are there times when we should learn to live with jams and delays? Especially since drivers eventually find alternative ways to get around?"

"Transportation advocates hate to compare transit and road projects, since they're financed from different pots of money," she adds. "But this schizoid approach has cost us dearly. No highway project has ever made a city a better place to live, while transit projects improve our quality of life in a variety of ways, and are better for the environment."

With the help of some transit experts, Saffron identifies several potential transit improvements that, for $900 million, could serve many more people.

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Published on Saturday, March 30, 2013 in philly.com
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