North Carolina could be wasting millions on widening roads without fixing traffic (Axios)

The bipartisan infrastructure law will distribute billions of dollars for road construction across the U.S., including $100 million to widen I-85 in Gaston County from six to eight lanes. But some say much of it will be in vain.


That’s because of a phenomenon called induced demand. It’s not a term everyone is familiar with, but it’s cropping up more and more in Charlotte. In debates over Chick-fil-A drive-thrus. After announcements about broadening roads. In recent news about a pitch to build a bridge over the Catawba.

What’s happening: According to the idea of induced demand, if you widen a road to relieve traffic jams, driving becomes easier for people. But the new lanes will become congested again in a matter of time, experts warn. (In short: Wider roads tend to encourage more drivers to use them, adding to congestion.

Sustain Charlotte’s stance is that money in a growing metropolitan area like Charlotte is better spent on improving our transit system and creating safer ways for people to commute without using cars in the first place.) Why does NCDOT keep widening roads? Urban design specialist Eric Zaverl of Sustain Charlotte says the state is “on autopilot” building highways.

“This is real, this concept of induced demand, and most traffic engineers know this,” he says. “But they’re also stuck in a closed system where there is no choice.”

Read the full story from Axios Charlotte here.