It isn’t every day that we see a manifestation of the proverb counseling that you should be careful what you wish for because you may get it. But here is one such situation writ large. You may recall our post of July 15, 2011, (click here) concerning the aborted “Carmageddon” — a gigantic Los Angeles area-wide traffic jam that was feared as a consequence of the replacement of a bridge over the 405 Freeway that had to be shut down for two days as part of a freeway widening project. But the jam did not materialize during the bridge demolition, thanks to good work of the freeway builders and the forbearance of Los Angeles drivers who stayed away from the site during the weekend it took to demolish one half of the old bridge, narrowing it down from four to two lanes. Now, we have to face the consequences of the local NIMBYs’ wishes. See Martha Groves, A Hard Drive on Mulholland, L.A. Times, August 29, 2011 – click here.
It seems that orginally the freeway builders wanted to build a new bridge first, and then demolish the old one. But that was not to the liking of local NIMBYs who demanded that their amateurish “plan” be followed instead — first, demolish the old bridge in stages, and then build the new one, also in stages. So, worried by the prospects of interminable project delays caused by a NIMBY lawsuit raising all sorts of environmental concerns that everybody has a right to litigate in California, the freeway builders caved in and said to the NIMBYs “Have it your way.” This meant that one half of the old bridge would be demolished first (constricting it to two lanes), and to facilitate traffic flow the remaining roads would also have to be narrowed, resulting in monumental traffic jams along Mulholland Drive as daily commuters and parents of children attending several local schools find themselves crawling along the narrowed road. In the words of the project’s “community relations officer,” as quoted by the Times:
“[T]he situation could have been avoided had neighborhood groups not vetoed an alternative during the run-up to construction. The two agencies [responsible for the project] in February proposed to reduce congestion by building a new, realigned bridge before tearing down the old one. That would have kept the Mulholland bridge at four lanes rather than two.
“Although city and county leaders supported the plan as more efficient and less costly, some property owners opposed it, arguing that the design was not in keeping with with Mulholland’s rustic character. They also complained that the officials had not presented enough environmental data.
“Under pressure to complete the project by 2013, transportation officials reverted to the idea of demolishing and rebuilding half of the bridge at a time over the next two years.”
Now it turns out that in addition to being a favored commuting route over the Sepulveda Pass as it crosses the Santa Monica Mountains (linking the San Fernando Valley with the West Side of Los Angeles), that bridge and the road that crosses it also serves some nine private schools, so their parents’ daily trip to drop the kids at school now takes 50 minutes to cover a couple of miles, as cars wend their way slowly “down two teeny little lanes,” as one unhappy mother put it.
Just how all that benefits the environment is not clear to your faithful servant who is convinced that the NIMBYs’ familiar lust for power and their desire to tell everybody how to conduct their affairs, blinded them to their own self-interest, and motivated them to play amateur engineers. If so — and it does so appear — this is a case of poetic justice. Serves ’em right!