Quick Note: Road Boondoggles

With all the focus on poorly done transit investment on this blog, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the primary source of US transportation waste is still roads. Consider for example the following projects proposed in Southern California, not all funded:

- $1 billion fully funded for adding one carpool lane in one direction for 10 miles to the 405 through Sepulveda Pass; since the 405 will have to be closed for two days, this is locally dubbed Carmageddon. This is about $60 million per unidirectional lane-km, which is to my knowledge a record for above-ground highways.

- $3 billion proposed for 4.5 miles of twin tunnels to complete a gap in the 710, of which $780 million is funded by Measure R, which generally funded transit projects. The cost, $400 million per km, is not high by global tunnel standards, but compared with the opportunity cost of building transit in the area, it’s enormous.

- $4.1 billion for widening the 5 from 8 lanes to 12-14 for 27 miles, not yet funded. It’s about $18 million per unidirectional lane-km, a figure that’s cropped up elsewhere in the US and should be compared with about $15-80 million per double track-km for light rail, which has about eight or ten times the capacity per unidirectional track or lane.