Misplaced Priorities: Spending $20 Million for 1,200 Drivers

The state of Minnesota is planning to spend $20 million to expand highway access to the town of Good Thunder, population 600. Photo: Wikipedia

Minnesota is planning to spend $20 million to widen and straighten the state highway through the town of Good Thunder, population 600. Photo: Wikipedia

Even a lot of routine road projects don’t make much sense when you apply a little critical analysis.

Here’s a great example from the Minneapolis area, via Matthias Leyrer at Network blog Streets.mn. Minnesota DOT is gearing up to pour $20 million into a state highway so the road will have 12-foot lanes, 6-foot shoulders, and fewer curves. But hardly anyone uses this road:

MNDOT recently announced that it will be spending roughly 20 million to fix up Highway 66 which connects Good Thunder with Mankato.

Now I’m no economist, but Good Thunder isn’t exactly a burgeoning center of local commerce. The residency as of the 2010 census stood at 583 people. Yes, 583, as in less than 600. As in I have enough money to give everyone in that city a dollar–scratch that–THREE DOLLARS.

Why spend $20 million on improving a route to a city that small? Great question, reader, here’s the answer: THERE IS NONE.

The AADT (Average Annual Daily Traffic) for this road is 1,100 cars. Roughly double the residency of Good Thunder or essentially every citizen coming to and from Mankato every day. If you want, think about it as $20,000 per car. Oh, did I mention that the road is about 12 miles long? So yet another way of thinking about it is roughly $1.6m a mile.

It would actually be cheaper to spend 10 million on the road and then just PAY those 1,100 cars 5k a year to take a different route (only for one year, but you get the idea).

Elsewhere on the Network today: World Streets relays the news that Helsinki has a plan to make private cars obsolete. The Wash Cycle is skeptical that GPS directions are a major factor in the decline of vehicle miles traveled. And Bike Pittsburgh announces that the city’s bike-share has been delayed until 2015.