June 8, 2003

By Michael Strickland

Lack of PLANning

Headline from the front page of today's paper: "Highway of future could be a tunnel." Because of the scarcity and consequent high value of land in southern California, highway engineers have been increasingly considering the viability of underground tunnels for freeway expansion. A tunnel project is under consideration to close a longstanding 4.5-mile gap in the Interstate 710 freeway in Los Angeles. A similar project is on the table in San Diego to divert traffic from the Coronado Bridge to North Island Naval Air Station underground to relieve overburdened surface streets.

I find such ideas compelling, to say the least. I have often dreamed of a long, exit-less expressway that cuts directly through L.A., a true "free"-way for those of us who just want to get from one end of L.A. to the other. Though I hadn't envisioned such a route as a tunnel, it would probably be the easiest way to do it—and with real estate prices at astronomical levels, it might even be the cheapest way.

Discussion of building tunnels where the surface can no longer accommodate ever-widening freeways seems a creative approach to solving California's traffic problems (setting aside the obvious earthquake concerns). But it ignores the underlying problem; it treats the symptom while overlooking the illness. There are, quite simply, too many people here.

We can rape the land to build thousands of more cookie-cutter homes. We can spend billions of dollars boring through clay to build underground freeways that will themselves be jammed at rush hour as soon as they're built. We can continue to allow droves of transplants to move here when the sewer, transportation and utility infrastructures can barely handle the current load. But the only way to truly solve the problem is to stop people from moving here.

I've watched this sleepy beach town become an urban sprawl over the past 15 years. Returning last summer after living in L.A. for several years, I couldn't believe the traffic problems and over-development that now plagues San Diego. And the problems show no sign of abating.

At one time, a group named Prevent Los Angelization Now (PLAN) did what it could to keep San Diego off the course down which it has already made significant headway. Unfortunately, PLAN met the same fate as thousands of acres of open space did. In this town, land developers are the new robber barons. They rule this city. Underground freeways may be a feasible, if costly, solution to the region's traffic woes. But as long as acre after acre after acre falls under the bulldozer's blade to make way for 20,000 more homes and the attendant Starbucks on every corner, they'll have as much a long-term effect as an aspirin for someone with a brain tumor.


©2003 Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

What is "The Daily Strick"?

I have long called myself a writer, but too often I don't do what a writer must do daily: write. So you, dear reader, are the beneficiary of my resolution to make a positive change in at least one area of my life. Every single day of this new year (almost), I will write something, anything, and post it here. It is my intention to use this daily exercise to jump-start my too-long-dormant creative energies, and perhaps generate some worthwhile material this year. Hopefully you will find at least an occasional amusement or insight in my daily musings.

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June Columns:

6/30: Halfway There
6/27: 28 Days Later
6/26: I Am a Racist
6/24: America the Obese
6/23: Reality TV Sells
6/20: June Gloom
6/18: Hatch's Hollywood Hacking
6/16: Qualcomm Stadium
6/15: Happy Father's Day
6/14: Flag Day
6/13: Friday the 13th
6/12: Extreme
6/9: Spammed
6/8: Lack of PLANning
6/7: When Grass Attacks
6/4: Culture Shock
6/1: The Baja 500
Previous months in The Archive

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