America's Top Transportation Follies and Triumphs
The criteria for the projects chosen for the Sierra Club's report “Smart Choices, Less Traffic" includes effects on oil use, land use, the economy, public health and the environment. State DOTs are responsible for many of the worst projects, says Angie Schmitt, whereas good examples often stem from local government initiatives and transit agencies. She writes, “The list of “worst” projects is dominated by 1950s-style mega-highways and road expansions, the cost of which frequently reaches into the billions.” The report's authors assert, “Old highway spending habits die hard... U.S. transportation policy is largely getting it wrong.”
The most offensive projects, which can be found in cities such as Seattle and Memphis and in states like Florida, Kentucky and Indiana, are what Schmitt describes variously as a “national embarrassment,” "sprawl generator," "ethically suspect," and wasteful.
Positive examples include streetcar, commuter rail, bikeshare and high-speed rail projects. Schmitt points out that these projects, alternatively, provide high “liveability returns and expected downward pressure on emissions,” and billions in economic returns.
It's been almost a decade since the last time the Sierra Club compiled a “best and worst” report, and Schmitt notes the success rate for “best” examples from that list (80%) were far higher than those for “worst” cases (under 50%).