The American Conservative » Urban Outfitters

Posted: September 24, 2010 in Complete Streets, New Urbanism, Planning, Urban Design, Urban Lifestyle

Came across an interesting blog article by John Norquist on the website “The American Conservative” that argues that conservatives should be more in favor of  transit and less in favor of highways. I think there are some lessons that apply to some of our local issues. From the article (emphasis is always mine):

……. the Right has become dysfunctionally attached to a transportation system that violates its principles. Highways appropriate private property. In greater Milwaukee, systemwide highway widening is on track to cost taxpayers nearly $7 billion, while resulting in the seizing and demolition of nearly $200 million worth of private property. Even where construction doesn’t always require outright confiscation, wider highways drain the value from neighboring private property and have corrosive effects on compact central cities.

And regarding elevated highways, the writer says :

Before the recent push by the state to expand highways in Milwaukee, we took the opportunity to remove an aging elevated freeway that was causing blocks and blocks of blight along riverfront land. Occupying property next to the freeway was like living next to the Berlin Wall. Removing the freeway has helped downtown grow as young people and retirees choose the convenience and excitement of urban living. Where before the freeway repelled high-value, jobs-producing uses, a new boulevard is home to a boutique hotel and serves as the gateway to the new headquarters of Fortune 500 Manpower Inc.

This is one argument you hear in favor of removing  the elevated part of I-20/59 in downtown Birmingham, as well as  against the elevated lanes proposed for the local stretch of  US Highway 280.

Here the writer appeals to a conservative’s desire to maintain a civil society:

Throughout much of the history of human civilization, transportation infrastructure supported a fully functioning civitas—something the Right should care to conserve. Streets served three purposes: movement of goods and people, economic or market functions, and social functions. But for decades, federal policy has mandated that only movement be considered in allocating federal tax dollars. Streets that serve as a setting for people to walk, shop, and engage in civic life are not part of the Department of Transportation playbook. Instead, the federal and state DOTs push big grade-separated roads that focus only on vehicle throughput and not on markets that flourish on streets like Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Broadway in New York City, or Main Street in Hometown, America. The avenues and boulevards of our nation have not been a priority for federal funding even though they host much of America’s social capital and commerce.

I can add that, in my opinion, nothing has done more to destroy our sense of community than the car captured suburban lifestyles that minimize chance encounters with real people.

Finally he makes this closing statement:

The billions we devote to war would be better spent renewing America’s own cities. Not blindly paving to satisfy federal mandates but prudently planning and efficiently constructing infrastructure to serve local needs. What could be more conservative than that?

This appeals to a Libertarian point of view as well as the liberal view regarding guns vs. butter. Many conservatives will be offended I am sure.

Here is the full article:

The American Conservative » Urban Outfitters.

What do you think?

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