This is somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as I have a hard time taking seriously the folks who get near apoplectic about expenditures for projects such as the Two Rivers Bridge and the BDB. OK, they don't ride bikes, they don't exercise, they don't use the resource, so I understand that they do not appreciate the quality-of-life perspective and, subsequently, they fail to see the benefit added to areas ranging from real estate values to corporate recruiting. That said, let's take a look at some other transportation projects and their costs. From Thursday's Democrat-Gazette, I see that downtown Blytheville is getting an $18 million dollar railroad overpass. That's just about equal to the cost of the Big Dam Bridge (12.5m) and the Two Rivers Park Bridge (5.3m) combined, and I have yet to hear the squeal of a single Tea Pot. Yeah, yeah, RR overpasses are great and all that, but we get by with grade crossings just fine. I'm not sure how much use the Blytheville overpass will get, but I will venture that it will not get any more use than the BDB and TRB and I can almost guarantee that it will not draw a single visitor to the City of Blytheville, nor will it be an effective recruiting tool for young, active, educated folks who might be looking to relocate. The same article mentioned adding one lane each way from I-430 to just west of U.S. 65 in Conway, a distance of 20 miles, at a cost of $100 million.
As an aside, I recently heard an interesting program on the effect of such projects on traffic. The conclusion of the author was that capacity increases resulting from improvements are soon offset by increased use. In other words, when the drive from Conway gets too painful, folks quit moving there. Build more lanes, more people commute, and in short order we're right back where we started. The result was found to be the same when public transportation was thrown in.
Anyway, using a cost of $5 million per mile, we got two spectacular, long lived projects for the cost of adding single lanes to less than 4 miles of semi-rural freeway. I did a quick search for life-expectancy of such freeway construction, but found nothing conclusive. If our local experiences with I-30 to Benton an 67-167 to Jacksonville are any indication, I suspect that much of the interstate will see substantial maintenance long before the first pothole appears on one of the bike/pedestrian bridge projects.
I make these points to serve as a reminder that non-motorized transportation expenditures are a tiny fraction of our transportation budget, that many of the projects have indefinite life expectancy and low maintenance requirements, and that they help reduce dependence on foreign oil while providing safe and healthy alternatives to driving.
These are not bad things.