Why The US 36 Construction Won’t Alleviate Congestion

Colorado US 36 constructionThe $497 Million construction currently under way on US 36 in between Denver and Boulder will not have an effect on the amount of time commuters spent in traffic jams. This seems counterintuitive: with the extra express lanes, widened shoulders and improved bridges, how could it not decrease traffic?

The answer is found in “the fundamental law of road congestion.” This law states that new roads will create new drivers, resulting in the intensity of traffic staying the same.

From Wired magazine:

“The answer has to do with what roads allow people to do: move around. As it turns out, we humans love moving around. And if you expand people’s ability to travel, they will do it more, living farther away from where they work and therefore being forced to drive into town. Making driving easier also means that people take more trips in the car than they otherwise would. Finally, businesses that rely on roads will swoop into cities with many of them, bringing trucking and shipments. The problem is that all these things together erode any extra capacity you’ve built into your street network, meaning traffic levels stay pretty much constant.”

The improved bus routes and bike path will be great for transportation to and from Boulder for those people who take advantage of them. But they shouldn’t be pitched as solutions to traffic – anyone who moves to public transportation will be replaced by someone who doesn’t.

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