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Interstate 2000: Improvement for the Next Millenium

Article December 28, 2000
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America's interstate highway system has produced considerable benefits for the nation. A recent American Highway Users Alliance report estimates that 187,000 lives have been saved and nearly 12 million injuries avoided as a result of interstate highway system use. Accident related economic gains alone have exceeded the cost of building the interstate system. Economic benefits are estimated to be at least $6 for each $1 in construction cost.

But the interstates are aging. The need to better maintain and rebuild the system has been recounted in reports by the U.S. DOT and the American Automobile Association.

We should recognize that the nation has experience considerable change since the interstate map was drawn 40 years ago. There has been a substantial shift of the population from the industrial east and northeast to the south and the west. Some of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas--Phoenix and Las Vegas for example--were small or medium size towns when the planners drew the system map. Meanwhile trade with Canada and Mexico is increasing under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) putting further demands on the system.

There have been few additions made to the system to account for the demographic shifts and growing continental trade. As we approach the new millennium, it is unreasonable that the criteria for interstate service be what it was half a century before.

Some of our rural and intercity intestates, especially in the northeast and midwest are becoming congested. Building alternate routes would improve regional and national connectivity, while providing relief along the most congested routes.

Areas of expansion

As a starter, the following routes should be considered as a part of the Interstate 2000 system.

IÐ95 Trenton to New Brunswick: This may be the most heavily utilized route in the interstate system. The state of New Jersey canceled this 30 mile section of the route in the late 1970s. As a result, the interstate system is incomplete between New York and the Philadelphia metropolitan areas. Since the cancellation, traffic on the parallel New Jersey Turnpike has increased significantly. At the same time, development has skyrocketed along U.S. 1, in the canceled corridor. IÐ95 should be completed.

IÐ11 Phoenix to Las Vegas: These two metropolitan areas of 2.6 million and 1.1 million population respectively are the nation's closest large metropolitan areas without a direct interstate connection, and the cities remain among the nation's fastest growing areas. In the future this route might be extended to the fast-growing Reno and Boise areas.

IÐ17 Phoenix to Salt Lake City: Like Phoenix, Salt Lake City is one of the nation's fastest growing metropolitan areas with a population of 1.2 million. There is no direct interstate connection between Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Completion of this corridor would require building or upgrading approximately 300 miles of roadway from Flagstaff, Ariz,. to Sevier, Utah. IÐ17 is completed from Phoenix to Flagstaff, while IÐ70 and IÐ15 would complete the connection to Salt Lake City.

IÐ32 Dallas/Fort Worth to Denver: In the 1950s these urban areas were not among the nation's largest. Now the Dallas/Fort Worth area has more than 4 million residents, while the Denver area has more than 2 million. The current interstate connection between these rapidly growing urban areas is indirect. This route would require 550 miles of construction, following the U.S. 287 corridor from Ft. Worth to Amarillo and connecting with IÐ25 in the Raton, N.M., area. This route would also improve access from Oklahoma City to Denver. The interstate distance between Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver would be reduced by nearly 20%.

IÐ41 Houston to Corpus Christi to McAllen-Brownsville: McAllen-Brownsville is the largest metropolitan area not served by the interstate system, and it is one of the most rapidly growing metropolitan areas. The increased commerce under NAFTA makes this route, which serves two international ports of entry on the Mexican border, even more important. This highway is the southern extension of the proposed Mid-Continent Highway (IÐ69).

IÐ69 Indianapolis to Houston: This route, called the Mid-Continent Highway, would provide improved access from the midwest to Houston, where it would connect with the proposed IÐ41 to the Mexican border. Approximately 600 miles would need to be built or upgraded.

IÐ101 Philadelphia to Virginia Beach-Norfolk to Raleigh: This route would provide a bypass of the Richmond to Baltimore IÐ95 corridor, providing much needed additional capacity to the rapidly growing South, while improving access to the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area--a rapidly growing metropolitan area and major seaport. The route would generally follow the U.S. 31 corridor from Wilmington, Del. to Norfolk, using the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and would continue to connect with IÐ85 in the Raleigh, N.C., area. Approximately 350 miles of construction would be required.

IÐ12 Houston to Austin: These metropolitan areas have grown rapidly. Less than 100 miles, this route would require upgrading from Austin to IÐ10 along the state route 71 corridor.

IÐ74 Cincinnati to Washington-Baltimore: This route would provide a much needed alternative to heavily traveled IÐ70 from the midwest to the Washington/Baltimore area, while cutting the interstate distance between Cincinnati and Washington/Baltimore by 10%. Approximately 275 miles of construction and upgrades would be required.

IÐ83 Baltimore to Buffalo-Rochester: This route would require construction and upgrade of approximately 150 miles along U.S. 15 and IÐ390 between Harrisburg, Pa., and Batavia, N.Y., where it would connect with IÐ90. The IÐ83 connection from Harrisburg to Baltimore is already in place.

IÐ53 St. Louis to Minneapolis-St. Paul: This direct route from St. Louis to Minneapolis-St. Paul would follow U.S. 61 and IÐ380 from St. Louis through Hannibal, Mo., Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Waterloo, Iowa, to IÐ35 in the Mason City, Iowa, area. It would require approximately 350 miles of construction and upgrades and would reduce interstate mileage between the two areas by up to 20%.

IÐ72 Kansas City to Chicago: This route would provide more direct access from Kansas City to Chicago, while providing an alternate to heavily traveled IÐ70. Approximately 200 miles of upgrades and construction would be necessary.

IÐ73 Columbus to Detroit: Columbus has been one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the midwest over the past 40 years. A more direct connection between Columbus and Detroit would be provided by this route, which would follow U.S. 23 from Columbus to the Findlay, Ohio, area, where it would connect with IÐ25. Approximately 75 miles of construction and upgrade would be necessary. The connection to Detroit would continue along the existing IÐ75.

IÐ7 Bakersfield to Fresno to Sacramento: This route, most of which is already interstate standard, would serve the heart of the rapidly growing San Joaquim Valley, including the largest city in the nation without an interstate connection, Fresno.

IÐ86 New York to Erie: This route, much of which already meets interstate standards, would generally follow New York 17 from IÐ87 in Orange County, New York to IÐ90 in the Erie area. It would provide needed additional capacity from the east to the midwest. Approximately 100 miles of construction and upgrade would be necessary.

Estimated cost

These additions would require less than 4,000 miles of new construction and an estimated cost of under $15 billion. Despite perceptions to the contrary, these highways can be built within the constraints of the present highway user fees. Currently, nearly one-third of federal highway user fees are diverted to non-highway uses. These revenues are more than sufficient to pay for these improvements.

America remains the world's premier economic power, but our international competitors have discovered the economic value of high-quality highways and are building aggressively. The America of the next millennium needs a highway system for the next millennium.

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