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Wider Is Not Always Better.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
North County Times
August 8, 1999


Recently there has been a great deal of talk about the widening of Interstate 5 to fourteen lanes, which is frightening in and of itself. When one considers the potential threats to coastal North County's four lagoons, you can imagine the nightmares that will be spawned by such an endeavor.

The automobile has failed humans in every way other than the generation of wealth. Sure we can get a lot more done, but to what end. Are we happier as individuals, healthier? Do cars allow us more time to spend with our families? Do they actually save an individual money. Are we utilizing technology that does not degrade our natural environment, is that technology future focused? The answer to all these questions is no, yet policy makers are planning to spend billions of dollars to keep the infrastructure crawling along.

For the past century human beings have been taking part of a huge scientific experiment, one that has failed. Much like the cigarette, the automobile has been forced on the world to the point where addiction sets in. And like heroin addicts, Americans are now so dependent on the car culture, it shapes their very lives, while slowly destroying them. Yet, unlike heroin, this addiction is culturally sanctioned, and promoted at every turn.

We are not widening roads because the roads are too narrow, we are widening the roads because there are too many people. It is time residents of San Diego County question the reasoning perpetuated by the growth machine. SANDAG tells us that we need to make room for million more people when there is not enough room to accommodate the lifestyle of the people already here. Why, who died and left them in charge?

The main problem is that for the past 40 years San Diego County has been designed not with human beings in mind, but the single occupancy vehicle. Notice how prominent parking lots are, this is not by accident. We bus our children to school, and shopping is now done next to freeways. How many of us actually live in walking distance to the places we work or worship? Why is this? Who is really served by an expanding the asphalt? More questions that go unasked as decisions are made.

The ideology of growth lacks common sense. Much like a dog forever chasing his tail, those justifying growth with future growth, fail to realize that when all resources are exhausted the dog dies. O.K. so we widen I-5 to fourteen lanes, how long will that be adequate? Homes continue to be built with two and three car garages, while their owners complain about the price of gasoline. And all the while elected officials continue to take money from development interests.

Here's an idea, instead of adding three more automobile lanes in each direction, a viable alternative is the placement of the proposed high speed rail along the I-5 corridor. And as for the planned expansion of Highway 78, here too is an opportunity for progressive planning. If we are truly building infrastructure for future generations, perhaps it is in their best interest to start the transition now.

If we allow current trends to continue our intentions won't really matter, because it will be to late to act. Children now entering grade school, will be left such a mess they will question the elderly's right to social security. And rightly so, after all what are we leaving them?

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