A project that will add up to four new lanes on an 8.1-mile stretch of the New Jersey Turnpike is expected to have a budget of $10.7 billion, sparking protests from residents and environmentalists alike.
The expansion, scheduled to begin in 2026 and take 15 years to complete, has seen its cost double from the initial estimates of $4.7 billion.
Proponents of the construction cite the need to help alleviate traffic in one of the most congested highways in the nation, as trucks rely on the turnpike to transport goods to and from the ports and warehouses in the area.
However, studies have shown that highway expansions are ineffective in reducing traffic while worsening pollution levels.
The National Bureau of Economic Research proposed the “fundamental law of road congestion,” in which there is a proportional relationship between the expansion of any major roads, including highways, and an increase in traffic.
The Rocky Mountain Institute reported a similar correlation between widened highways and traffic, as well as higher levels of air pollution.
Renae Reynolds, the executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, told the New York Times that the funds used to improve the turnpike should instead be spent improving the state’s public transportation system “as opposed to adding more emissions burdens on communities that are already overburdened.”
According to Safe Streets JC, the American Lung Association has already given the county where the highway expansion is supposed to take place an F grade for the number of days the area has breached national air quality standards.
It’s a frustrating development compounded by the fact that places like Stockholm, Sweden, and Austin, Texas, have seen their respective governments invest billions of dollars to increase the number of lanes on highways despite evidence proving its intended goal to be all for naught — all while harming the health of nearby residents and the planet.
Redditors commenting on a thread about the New York Times article expressed dissatisfaction with the proposed expansion.
“For this money I bet they could just implement 5 Bus Lanes and a complete subway system. That way the traffic jams won‘t be a thing anymore, either,” said one user.
“As a former NJ resident, this is the dumbest s*** ever. I don’t understand why widening the approach to a TWO LANE TUNNEL would make anything be better,” wrote another.
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