Engineer: “Award-Winning” PA Highway Ramps Nothing to Be Proud Of

Exposing the absurdity in the modern traffic engineering profession is the specialty of Charles Marohn at Strong Towns, and that’s a big, and sometimes too easy, job.

A $77 million interchange project in Chester, Pennsylvania was sold as an economic development project. It empties into an industrial zone. Photo: Streets.mn

Check out this example from Pennsylvania, which Marohn brought to our attention via Network blog Streets.MN. The state of Pennsylvania was given two awards for a $77 million interchange project in the city of Chester’s downtown.

Sold as a way to spur “economic development” in an area near the shore, this project is redundant and wasteful in the extreme, says Marohn. A mere half-mile from another interchange, it empties into a dead zone:

While there is a stadium — the universal sign of desperation in economic development – here’s what else appears to be there: a solid waste facility, numerous scrap facilities, a paper company, what looks like a sewage treatment plant, a couple of industrial sites dealing with metals and plastics, and a place that looks like this [photo at right]:

These ramps represent an investment of $9,060 for a Chester family of four. For a city with a 12% reported rate of unemployment, how many real jobs could be created if $77 million were put into an economic gardening program? This is an unconscionable expenditure.

But it gets worse. While PennDOT is gloating over their two awards for these ramps — a redundant bit of transportation infrastructure if there ever was one — they rank #1 in the country for having bridges that are structurally deficient. That is not #1 as in the best but #1 as in the worst. THE WORST. Pennsylvania’s DOT, which just spent $77 million on two new ramps half a mile from two existing ramps, has 5,906 structurally deficient bridges that together carry nearly 23 million cars per day. More than one out of every four bridges in Pennsylvania is structurally deficient.

How can any spokesman for an organization with that track record tout these new ramps as a benefit for motorists? How can any engineer, knowing the backlog of critical maintenance that exists, suggest that travels will now be “quicker and easier” thanks to this project? It is scary to think that they may actually believe what they are saying.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Extraordinary Observations wonders if the urban farming trend isn’t missing the boat by not expanding to the suburbs. This Big City checks out Kansas City’s unusual bike share preparations. And My Wheels are Turning suggests ways residents can improve the livability of their streets through their own behaviors.