Comment 29027

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 24, 2009 at 12:56:38


Speaking for myself, I thought the Red Hill Valley Parkway was a bad idea because it got a lot of things wrong:

  • Negative municipal ROI on construction and maintenance costs. Net increased property tax assessment on new developments oriented to the highway would have to exceed $20 million per year just to cover the debt servicing, maintenance and lifecycle costs, let alone the actual cost of construction.

  • Subsidizes excessive driving by making it easier to drive long distances. This increases overall per capita energy consumption and air pollution.

  • Subsidizes low density land use by opening road access to greenfields in the far east mountain. This destroys prime agricultural land and results in a net drain on city finances since developer charges and property taxes are not enough to pay for the public infrastructure these developments require.

  • Induced demand (look it up) means even the traffic alleviation is only a temporary respite.

  • Opportunity cost of spending the capital on projects with better ROI and economic development potential.

Everything I've seen since the completion of the RHVP supports extreme skepticism of the claims of its proponents - not least of which the fact that none of them seem to want to discuss in any detail whether the Parkway is actually performing as promised in terms of economic development and job creation.

Some proponents have distanced themselves from it by claiming that it was undertaken poorly - that it would have supported economic development if the land use and zoning were done differently.

That's a cop-out. The biggest political and economic supporters of the RHVP in the 2003 election were residential home builders, and their most-supported candidates were the people who won a majority on council and finalized the highway.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, to discover that the highway completion has principally enabled low-density suburban development - a land use that is, among other things, a net drain on city finances.

It turns out that, to borrow a phrase from a rueful Michael Ignatieff after supporting the Iraq War, "intentions do shape consequences".

As for the Pan Am Games bid, I'm inclined to think it's also a bad idea, and for many of the same reasons; except that a) it doesn't cost as much, b) it doesn't get as many things wrong as the RHVP (at least it won't subsidize sprawl land use and transportation), and c) it would generate a positive use on land that is currently being wasted as a non-performing brownfield.

I realize that's a pretty tepid endorsement (if it can even be called an endorsement), but I think it's important to use the same criteria to evaluate the two projects if we're going to compare them.

It seems to me that using generous standards for the RHVP but strict standards of performance for the proposed stadium is a double standard that impedes constructive debate.

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