UK to Invest $78 Billion in Roads

We’re told by Sacramento politicians, by county supervisors, by cyclists and transit advocates we need to accept high density housing near transit. We are sewn a story that we can be just as quaint as those progressive, green Europeans.

Only here’s the reality check – the UK government just announced a $78 billion road building program.

See if any of this  sounds familiar. Over here in the US you may have heard the same rationale made for investing in transit. Here’s what the UK Transport Secretary has to say on the matter:

Roads are key to our nation’s prosperity…Better roads allow us to travel freely, creating jobs and opportunities, benefiting hardworking families across the country.

The British Government Transportation Whitepaper

UK Dept of Transport Whitepaper

UK Dept of Transport Whitepaper

Read the British government white-paper. This is not some site run by a blogger, not some mere county, this is the British national government recognizing that if one sticks ones head in the sand and bets all the chips on transit, as they had done, it significantly inhibits economic growth and jobs.

Excerpt – by the UK Secretary of State for Transport:

We need to maximise every one of our economic advantages, and deal with every factor that holds us back if we are to succeed in the global race. Transport is one of the most important factors in making our country prosper. As a densely-populated island, we should benefit from being better connected and more compact. This government has already committed to a major transformation of the rail network. However roads remain the most heavily used mode of transport for people and businesses and we need to give them the same attention.

 

In June, we announced in Investing in Britain’s Future the biggest-ever upgrade of our existing roads, worth up to £50 billion [$78 billion] over the next generation. We have approved or advanced 52 national road projects since 2010, and we are addressing some of the most serious problems on our network.

 

Failures of the road network increase costs, stifle employment opportunities and make it harder to do business in the UK

 

Since 1990, France has built 2,700 miles of new motorway – more than the entire UK motorway network put together. The UK is now ranked twenty-fourth in the world for roads, behind many other developed countries. Winning the global race means taking the challenges on our roads seriously.

Roads Benefit the Economy

A callout in the UK government whitepaper clearly lays out the importance of investing in roads to the economy. The arguments are very clear.

Roads and the economy

Summing It Up

Here’s how the UK government whitepaper sums it up:

The road network is vital to our economy and to our way of life.

  • Other nations have invested more in their networks, and business figures surveyed by the World Economics Forum rate our roads worse than many of our European competitors. There are still significant weak points in the UK network.
  • While there have been major gains in environment and safety in recent years, greater investment could mean big improvements in some locations.

Transit advocates would have you believe that Europeans all travel by bikes and trains – not so as the whitepaper states:

Roads are the most heavily used mode of transport in England and a crucial part of the transport network. By volume, they currently account for 90% of passenger journeys and two thirds of freight. Every year passengers travel more than 440 billion vehicle miles by road in the UK.1 Our factories depend on raw materials brought by road and our shops are filled by a fleet of lorries [trucks] that is never still.

What Does this Mean for Us?

Progressive nations that have historically underinvested in roads have recognized the vital link between roads and the economy. However here Plan Bay Area is diverting billions of dollars of transportation investment away from roads and into transit:

Plan moves in opposite direction from target; the percentage of distressed state highway lane-miles in the region will rise to 44 percent of the regional highway system by year 2040….the share of distressed lane-miles is expected to increase from 27 percent of the overall Bay Area highway network to 44 percent of the network.

Source: Draft Plan Bay Area, page 105, target 10b:

The most progressive nations are doubling down on roads recognizing their importance. It’s time for the US, California and Marin County to move from denial to recognizing that diverting money away from roads to transit is hurting our economic competitiveness and ultimately denying growth that will help all residents through improved quality of life.