The Pixar film “Cars” has this great scene, where we learn the sad history of small-town Radiator Springs. You probably remember it: the new interstate highway gets built, and all the shop owners expect it to bring lots of new customers. Instead the interstate causes all the traffic — and customers — to bypasses the town altogether. The town’s economy is decimated.
Radiator Springs may be a fictional place, but the story is all too real. And it gets repeated over and over again: Transportation agencies build new highway bypasses to “solve” traffic congestion on Main St.. The local business community at first welcomes the new highway, only to realize when it is too late that the bypass sucks the lifeblood out of downtown.
The latest case is Lincoln, California (population 42,000). Two days ago, a new bypass was opened around the city. The $325 million, 12-mile bypass will take some 40,000 cars around the city. It is Placer County’s most expensive transportation project ever. Eventually, the bypass will be widened to 4-lanes and made into a full-fledged freeway.