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Residents criticize controversial multi-billion-dollar highway expansion in major city: ‘Seems a little pricey for some concrete’

Multiple studies have shown that highway expansions are ineffective at reducing congestion.

Multiple studies have shown that highway expansions are ineffective at reducing congestion.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

A plan to expand a highway in Fraser Valley, British Columbia, will cost taxpayers $2.34 billion, and it has caused outrage and debate among residents of the area. 

A government news release about the plan was posted to the r/BritishColumbia subreddit, where the Redditors did not exactly welcome the news of more spending to accommodate more cars.

“We need to think of better ways of getting cars off the road,” wrote one commenter. “I think we should be exploring the idea of connecting all the south of the Fraser towns from Surrey to Hope (ideally connected to waterfront or pacific central) with a passenger rail line.”

“Seems a little pricey for some concrete,” wrote another commenter.

According to the news release, the highway expansion “will relieve traffic congestion and accommodate more sustainable transportation options in the region.” The issue with that assertion, however, is that while relieving traffic congestion is always given as the reason for expanding highways, it doesn’t actually work that way.

Multiple studies have shown that highway expansions are ineffective at reducing congestion — while travel times reliably decrease in the immediate aftermath expansions, the roads attract more cars, and congestion quickly returns to its previous levels within a few years.

At the same time, the overall number of cars on the now-larger road increases, increasing the levels of air pollution for drivers and nearby residents.

As for what the news release meant by saying that the highway expansion would “accommodate more sustainable transportation options,” that’s really anyone’s guess. Even with the rising popularity of electric vehicles, cars are among the least sustainable transportation options (after things like airplanes and helicopters). 

If the government of British Columbia really wanted to accommodate more sustainable transportation options, it would be spending billions of dollars on public transit options like high-speed rail, as many Redditors suggested in the thread, instead of on wider highways.

“$2.34 billion for more lanes…” wrote one commenter. “Seems like an insane cost, that would be better used to get commuters off the highway [through] rail and free up space for trucks.”

“Or a sky train down the middle of the highway,” responded another.

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