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The Alphabet Series 2000: F is for Freeways

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 19, 2000


"There is no force more potent in the modern World than stupidity fueled by greed." — Edward Abbey

Could someone please tell me why freeways are called freeways. An oxymoron if ever I heard one, there is absolutely nothing free about the ribbons of cement that have become the centerpiece of our society. A highway, according to the Oxford Dictionary, is a public road between two cities or towns. The American Dictionary defines a freeway as a highway without a toll. Considering the price of auto insurance, and the fine for driving on Interstate 5 without insurance, free in no way applies to these roadways. On the East Coast "freeways" are called expressways. Express however, is not a word usually associated with Interstates 5 and 15.

As everyone knows, "freeways" come with enormous price tags. Not only are they expensive to build and maintain, they also take a heavy toll on the environment. The "lagoons" along I-5 are perfect examples of how a freeway can completely alter an ecosystem. Just as Oceanside Harbor is of human design, so are all of North County's lagoons. I-5 is responsible for Carlsbad's Snug Harbor,and it's polluting jet skis. Another issue regarding water quality is freeway runoff. And don't get me started on MTBE.

Burning fossil fuel is costing residents at both ends. Regardless how ridiculously low the price of gas is in Southern California, folks are still going to complain about it. Seeing the price at the pump to be a small hurdle to be endured, SUV owners continue to fuel up as if their creature comfort was in no way a threat to the biotic community around them. Californians would rather choke to death than surrender the facade of freedom the personal vehicle provides them.

Commuters between North County and San Diego will be the first to tell anyone that will listen how trapped they feel sitting in peak hour traffic, trying to navigate the 5/805 merge and the Del Mar Heights bottle neck. Adding insult to injury, as you crawl along with the rest of the sheep people, one can't help but notice the amount of residential development being added along the Interstate 5 corridor. By widening roadways, CalTrans is only adding to the problem. What San Diego County needs is an abrupt paradigm shift that advocates progressive thinking when planning for future transportation needs, and not the pavement panacea elected officials are constantly promoting as "The Solution." What we need is a twelve step program for fossil fuels.

Americans are addicted to the automobile, and freeways the arteries with which we deal. We can't help this. This is our mother culture. Now, knowing full well we are slowly killing ourselves, we make empty talk about improved fuel efficiency as the number of vehicles on the road multiplies. More, and bigger cars spewing less toxins, does not equate to a net reduction in emissions. Knowing what we now know about the use of fossil fuels, it is now time for us to reject the old ways of doing things, and start working towards a sustainable future.

This is not to say a reinvention of the wheel is needed. Freeway corridors now bisecting North County communities should be slowly converted to rail traffic. These corridors are large enough to accommodate both high speed and commuter rail services. By redesigning our transportation infrastructure, we can bring it into the 21st century by using the solar generated magnetic levitation technologies currently being used in other parts of the world.

This is also the time for voters to reject any freeway friendly politicians, such as Marion Dodson and Joe Kellejian of Solana Beach. Last week Kellejian, sent out form letters stating that regardless of the findings of the San Diego Association of Governments Policy Advisory Committee, yet another Transportation Study will be conducted in regards to his and Marion's desire to force highways through coastal back country open space currently set aside by the Multiple Species Conservation Plan (MSCP) and the Multiple Habitat Conservation Plan (MHCP) as protected wildlife habitat.

As Southern California begins to understand the error of it's selfish ways, and the ecological price to be paid for life in the fast lane, individuals promoting out dated transportations schemes will be seen as environmental liabilities. Global warming is now a reality, automobiles and the CO2 they inject into the atmosphere can no longer be tolerated. With open space now at a premium and population at the saturation point, freeways and the sprawl they induce must be abandoned as the failed science experiment they are. To do otherwise is suicide.

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