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When a Freeway Goes Bad

At some point, in places all over the country, freeways stopped working as they were intended. What can be done to improve one of the great frustrations of life with a car?
August 23, 2015, 5am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Aaron Kohr

Rick Paulus examines a provocative question at the heart of the contemporary experience: "Highways are created with the purpose of allowing masses to move to distant places in relatively stress-free conditions….There isn't a city in the country that doesn't have some version of a congested stretch like this. So why does a highway go bad? And what can be done to fix it?"

Paulus calls on a series of experts to answer the question. Blair Barnhardt, an expert in pavement management and author of the Book on Better Roads, notes how long it takes to build roads and a particularly scary consequence of that delivery timeline: "By the time of its design, it's already out of date."

The article examines the research of Matthew Turner of the University of Toronto and Gilles Duranton from the University of Pennsylvania who found evidence of induced demand. Or, as Sean Nozzari, deputy district director at Caltrans, puts it: "We can no longer build our way out of congestion."

In the end, Paulus argues in favor of technology-driven solutions like traffic management systems and congestion pricing as the solution for those challenges.

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Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 in Pacific Standard
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