china traffic congestion trucks

Five Years and Billions Later
katrina fema corps of engineers levee flooding

China's nine-day traffic jam stretches 100km

Why have we not learned the lessons of “freeways”? Of Katrina? Why? Because of OPM (pronounced “opium”): Other People’s Money. Governments get to spend, and do not have to earn. People must pay, but don’t get to be responsible. Bail people out (like Wall Street) and they keep making the same mistake. We trim, blend, and append two 2010 articles from (1) AFP, Aug 23, on traffic and (2) Weekly Wastebasket, Aug 20 (Volume XV No. 33) on Katrina by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

by AFP and by TCS

Thousands of vehicles were bogged down Monday in a more than 100-kilometre (62-mile) traffic jam leading to Beijing that has lasted nine days and highlights China's growing road congestion woes.

The Beijing-Tibet “expressway” slowed to a crawl on August 14 due to a spike in traffic by cargo-bearing heavy trucks heading to the capital, and compounded by road maintenance work that began five days later, the Global Times said.

The state-run newspaper said the jam between Beijing and Jining city had given birth to a mini-economy with local merchants capitalizing on the stranded drivers' predicament by selling them water and food at inflated prices.

That stretch of highway linking Beijing with the northern province of Hebei and the Inner Mongolia region has become increasingly prone to massive jams as the capital of more than 20 million people sucks in huge shipments of goods.

Traffic slowed to a snail's pace in June and July for nearly a month, according to earlier press reports.

The latest clog has been worsened by the road improvement project, made necessary by highway damage caused by a steady increase in cargo traffic, the Global Times said.

China has embarked in recent years on a huge expansion of its national road system but soaring traffic periodically overwhelms the grid.

The congestion was expected to last into mid-September as the road project will not be finished until then, the newspaper said.

JJS: Why no freight trains? Must newcomers repeat the same mistakes of old-timers? Interesting how people who’re stranded must pay more for necessities, just as they must in the aftermath of a hurricane.

Five years ago, on August 25th, a category one hurricane made landfall on Florida's southeast coast and churned through Miami, causing damage and taking several lives before heading into the Gulf of Mexico as a simple tropical storm. Over the next several days Katrina intensified, making landfall on August 29th as a category three hurricane near the Louisiana/Mississippi border.

Much has happened since that day of harrowing images: refugees in the Superdome, a major American city flooded, and communities in Mississippi utterly washed away by the storm. The bumbling Federal Emergency Management Agency Director, Michael Brown, is now a Vice President at a technology firm, the Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco opted not to seek re-election, the ubiquitous Anderson Cooper got a bigger show on CNN, and many native New Orleanians left their homes never to return.

But much has stayed the same: The Army Corps of Engineers is still spending billions to provide New Orleans with category three level of protection. Of course, that was what they were supposed to have back in 2005, when engineering failures by the Corps, like bad levee design and construction -- not the storm surge -- led to levee failures and widespread flooding. But perhaps more tragic was the construction of a largely unused navigation channel that helped lead the storm directly into the heart of the city. The navigation channel, called the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet (MRGO or Mr. Go) is now closed and being outfitted with surge barriers. Rather than a day late and a dollar short, this effort is decades late and costing taxpayers billions.

And it looks more and more like we are going to spend billions more taxpayer dollars on heavily structural storm damage reduction approaches that have failed us in the past. Corps projects like "Morganza to the Gulf" represent old designs of large levee systems that will inevitably induce more development, and provide protection from only modest storms while exposing people and property to heavy losses in the increasingly likely event of more severe storms -- and cost another billion dollars.

When it reviewed the Corps' plan last year, the National Research Council (an arm of the National Academy of Sciences) observed that the plan "…does not offer a comprehensive long-term plan for structural, non-structural, and restoration measures across coastal Louisiana, nor does it suggest any initial, high-priority steps that might be implemented in the short term. Instead, a variety of different types of structural and nonstructural options are presented, with no priorities for implementation."

Furthermore, efforts like spending more than $1 billion on a project to build a new longer, wider, deeper navigation lock on the Industrial Canal in New Orleans along the 5.5 mile section where the levees failed during Katrina also distract attention and siphon money away from higher priorities. Louisiana's political leaders need to keep their eyes on the prize.

Levees fail. In some places, people are going to have to elevate properties or move. In others, structural solutions like ring levees make sense. And considering coastal wetlands are the best storm surge protection going, restoring these areas that protect people and infrastructure is critical.

JJS: Great ideas. How do we pay for them? People everywhere should be getting money from a source outside of work, from the value of nature and land and resources, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Would that extra income be enough for poor people in New Orleans? Perhaps.

After its devastating earthquake and fire, San Francisco rebuilt, without a dividend or outside aid. The entry to California is a valuable location, so people wanted to invest there. Further, the mayor of the city on the bay was a follower of economist Henry George and so insisted that the property tax be collected and at the value of the land (the buildings were rendered valueless). So landowners got busy and rebuilt SF.

Likewise, the mouth of the Mississippi is a valuable location and today people want to invest there. Perhaps they could make the low-lying city into the Venice of America. If only government would quit its wasteful spending and instead begin raising revenue efficiently from the value of locations. It’s called geonomics and has worked before. Let it work again.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.

Also see:

Which cities are the safest for pedestrians? Which are dangerous ...

California considers a dividend to residents

Having land available makes a difference

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