The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision. – Helen Keller: author, political activist, lecturer, first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree, and ACLU co-founder
In Roman mythology, the god Janus has two faces, one looking to the past, the other to the future. He can serve as a symbol for the conservative-liberal divide about which it is said conservatives look backward to a golden age that never existed and liberals forward to an unachievable utopian future. Libertarians? They’re neither nostalgic nor visionary but, rather, firmly planted in the present afflicted with myopic vision, which causes them to believe the present is the end of progress. Helen Keller might have had them in mind.
American roads, especially in the West, are overrun with addicted drivers. Not necessarily addicted to alcohol, drugs, pot, or texting although those are serious concerns, but to what they’re doing: Driving. They believe the road is their personal fiefdom and it’s their inalienable right to drive as fast to wherever with minimal hindrances, like other vehicles and speed limits, clutching their steering wheels with death grips.
It’s fascinating to consider that while a vehicle is moving relative to its environment, the driver’s position is relative to the vehicle. Thus, he/she is technically going nowhere. Although that’s neither here nor there, it serves as a fun factoid that encourages one to consider issues complexly rather than from a limited, self-interest perspective.
Case in point is the I-70 corridor through the Clear Creek Valley. For some, there is one solution: More lanes, lots of lanes, as many lanes it takes to accommodate the onslaught of vehicles during those few hours outdoor enthusiasts make their ways up and overwhelm the highway. Their “solution” would cause the Clear Creek community a mountain of woes, potentially destroying the community as we know it.
Historians have dubbed the pioneer movement of the nineteenth century Western Expansion. While the West’s wide-open spaces have attracted immigrants, in turn they’ve shaped westerners’ thinking, much like how the open road and personal-transportation device—automobile—have rewired the brains of drivers.
Consider what expansion ultimately entails: Unbridled growth. Expansion can work, albeit with dreadful consequences (e.g., sprawl), as long as there is space to build on. But it runs into reality at the Rocky Mountain foothills. From there up, land is a limited commodity and resource. Not only do roads compete with homes, businesses, commercial holdings, and communities for it, they simultaneously work as a conduit for more to come and compete for the more-limited space.
There are those who argue the present, albeit on steroids, is the future, an argument based on personal convenience, rather than thoughtful consideration of the current transportation mode’s impact on the community and environment; of the inevitability of change when one day, perhaps not far into the future, rubber-wheeled, on-ground transportation will go the way of the horse-drawn buckboard; and of the fact behavior is learned, shaped, and conditioned by one’s environment and tribe’s ethos.
On a grand scale, Los Angeles has proven the more-lanes solution is a remedy worse than the disease; on a lesser and more recent scale, Denver has with its T-Rex Project. That massive overlay of concrete, which displaced many, was to solve the metro area’s north-south traffic nightmare by widening the Valley Highway (“I-25” to recent transplants). Instead, T-Rex exacerbated congestion by creating a super-wide, sprawling, at times crawling, virtual parking lot during “peak-period usage” prompting earlier start and later stop times.
The Denver metro area is burgeoning. Traffic is increasingly a nightmare. Rents are soaring like the Denver skyline. CDOT is unsurprisingly seeking to accommodate more by proscribing what has become the classic definition of insanity: Repeating something and expecting different results. CDOT’s long-range intent: Widen I-70 through north Denver, I-25 north to Ft. Collins, and C-470 across Highlands Ranch and bulldoze through Golden to complete the C-470 beltway. And through Clear Creek for one purpose: To accommodate recreational traffic during very limited times.
The remaining vestige of Denver’s cow-town persona is a New York strip steak at Elway’s. What will remain of the Clear Creek community along with its history and tradition if more-lanes advocates get their way?
A future column: Think Elon Musk. Adapt or go extinct.