25 October 2003
Our road warriors cover much of the Mountain time zone, so while I was making notes for some future ('06?) World Tour, I popped the question to one of them: "How would you organize a trip to Montana from here without having to go through Denver?"
The warrior beamed, for he knew that this time he would not have to impart the lesson of a lifetime: Do not, under any circumstances, go through Denver.
As it happens, Fûz has been contemplating what it's like to go through Denver, and he thinks the plans being implemented are wrong-headed and utterly miss the point. His thesis:
A beltway is supposed to relieve the downtown of the traffic burden of mainline highways crossing the city. Travelers who want to go through Denver should be encouraged to drive the extra miles, on very nicely built roads with high speed limits, to skip the traffic and the hassle, and even to relocate some of the air pollution away from downtown. Ten bucks of tolls does not constitute encouragement to drive 46 miles instead of 32, especially for heavy trucks whose per-mile and per-minute costs are higher.
Those extra 14 miles come from taking the new E470 route instead of I-25. As an alternative, Fûz proposes a High Occupancy/Toll lane on I-25 with limited access and egress. For the Interstate traveler heading north (as I would be, except of course that I'm trying to avoid going through Denver), the Fûz plan offers three choices:
Even if it's ten bucks for #1, this strikes me as more sensible; the whole idea of E470 should be to divert people (especially local traffic) from I-25 in the first place, and you don't divert people by hitting them with both a toll and a greater distance to drive.
In Oklahoma, where we all hate toll roads with a passion, some of them are actually justified, and none of them more so than the Kilpatrick Turnpike, which describes a 120-degree arc from I-35 near the Oklahoma City/Edmond line to I-40 out near El Reno. The northern segment of the Kilpatrick runs more or less parallel to Memorial Road, a major east-west artery that is hopelessly clogged with local traffic. Is it worth a buck to bypass all that to go from the eastern terminus (roughly the 5000 block east) to, say, Quail Springs Mall (roughly 2500 west)? Easily. And if you use the RF devices, it's only 90 cents.
My new commute, once I'm into the new digs, will run about 11 miles, three times what I'm used to, and that includes a loop on I-44 east to I-35 south. Both of these roads are fairly heinous in the morning hours, and the I-44 segment includes the infamous Belle Isle Bridge. If I confine myself to surface streets, the distance shortens to about 9 miles, though the time required increases markedly. There are no plans to make either of the two Interstate segments toll roads at this time. (The portion of I-44 actually in Oklahoma City is one of the few stretches in the state that isn't a toll road.) And taking the Kilpatrick itself adds 15 miles to the trip. But would I pay, say, $2 a day for a 70-mph Kilpatrick-like breeze through the city? In a heartbeat. There's no room for another in-town loop, though, and I doubt that ODOT could get Fûz to go to work for them.