Highways Kill

Want another reason to abandon our automobile-dependent, sprawling communities? How about “because it’s killing our kids”?

Yes, a bit of hyperbole. But the reality is that a 2004 report by the Sierra Club (yes, I know this will be dismissed by many on the right simply because of the sponsor) indicates that sprawl and the network of highways that service sprawl seriously contributes to serious health problems. A study recently published by a team of scientists lead by James Gauderman of USC shows a relationship between the proximity to major traffic arteries and the rate of respiratory and heart problems in children. KCPW recently talked about these issues with a representative of the National Sierra Club. Listen Here.

I find this reason for concern when the Utah legislature seems consumed with scarring every available spot of land with roads to enable our automotive mania. Legacy Highway, West-Side Highway, Mountain View Corridor Highway, et al. Sure, highways are awfully convenient for getting around to wherever you want to go at any time on any whim (assuming you’re not stuck in a jam due to accidents, construction, rush-hour, or any number of common traffic problems). But putting aside the enormous financial costs of construction and maintenance, are they worth the risk to the health of our families? Is the privilege of hour-long commutes, traffic snarls, road rage, and thirty-dollar stops at the gas station every week worth the risk of a lifetime with an inhaler—or worse?

Luckily for us, this isn’t inevitable. We don’t have to accept the current paradigm of sprawl and roads. Organizations such as Envision Utah have provided blueprints to developing more centralized communities along the Wasatch Front with better transportation planning (including walkable community planning!) and less need for the rats-nest of roads across our state.

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