Stop the highway slaughter

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

The tragic deaths of eight young firefighters this week on Highway 20 near the Idaho border was a grim reminder of how unsafe many of Oregon’s roads are. While other states have fully integrated networks of high-speed turnpikes or parkways, Oregon’s highway system — if one can call it that — is a hodgepodge of interstate highways, country roads, and urban arterials.

Impatient drivers treat these thru ways as if they were interstates, but only some are. Many Oregon roads are poorly designed for high-speed traffic. Private driveways, changing lane configurations and hairpin turns are all common features that make the roads dangerous.

Oregon needs a modern highway system, but politicians insist on squandering money on a 19th Century technology: trains. Oregon will spend over $2 billion on streetcar, commuter rail, Amtrak and light rail projects during the next 10 years, despite the fact that more than 99 percent of all trips take place on roads.

This is what happens when the highway system is owned and operated as a socialist state enterprise. Elsewhere in the country, as noted in the Reason Foundation’s May 2003 Privatization Watch, private investors are responding to market demands by building modern highways paid for by users through electronic tolling technology. These tollways are fast, safe and convenient.

Let’s get our priorities straight. Oregon needs new highways, not rail lines. The price of delay is more carnage on our roads.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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