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Author Topic: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?  (Read 17588 times)

RoadWarrior56

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How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« on: February 19, 2009, 06:10:40 PM »

As we all know, the Interstate System is a 42,000+ mile system that cris-crosses the USA and was mostly constructed in a 20-year period.  As somebody who works in the transportation field, I contend that such a feat could not be done under today's political and regulartory environment, even assuming sufficient funding were available.   Between the fact that it can take years to get a project cleared through NEPA, the extra tools availble to NIMBY's etc to delay or even kill a project, a different political and cultural environment,  and the fact that higher design standards and land costs make it much more costly (inflation adjusted) to construct a mile of interstate highway today than it did 40 to 50 years ago.

As a hypothetical question, how many years do you think it would take to try to construct the same system now, if we began it in 2009 rather than 1956?  And would it be as extensive, or would there be many more gaps left over like the I-95 gap in New Jersey?
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flaroads

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2009, 06:30:57 PM »

Just as you stated, with all the government red tape, environmental studies, even more NIMBY's now than we had in the 50's and 60's, etc., etc., if we were to begin construction of the interstate system in 2009 it wouldn't be as extensive as the current system is now and I would imagine most of it would be tolled. And given all those facts, it would take probably more like 60 to 70 years to complete. (just my own opinion, of course) 
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RoadWarrior56

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2009, 07:02:31 PM »

You are more optimistic than me, I think it would take a century!!!  It will probably take 30 years to finish the I-69 extension, assuming it ever is completed.
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flaroads

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2009, 08:33:29 PM »

Well those were the first numbers that jumped out of my head. It more than likely would take 100 years or more, and hey, maybe by then we wouldn't even need land based vehicles!!  :-D
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RoadWarrior56

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2009, 08:57:05 PM »

You are probably right about the evolution from land-based vehicles, except that the same litigation and regulation that consumes many a transportation project into years of red tape, would likely tie up a new invention like an air car for years, and regulate it to the point nobody could ever afford to buy one, assuming anybody could ever be legally allowed to offer one for sale in the first place.  Ya think I sound a bit cynical?
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brad2971

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2009, 11:07:29 PM »

A few things would stand out if the Interstate Hwy System were initially built under NEPA, as opposed to the 90/10 Federal match that started initial construction:

1. I-90 in South Dakota, I-10 in West Texas, and I-70 from Denver to the KS Tpk @Topeka would not have been built. Not enough potential traffic in those areas to justify grade-separated freeway improvements, even as a means of economic development. Which means....

2. Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois would've jointly funded initial construction and expansion of current Interstates 76. 80, and 88 (meaning, no Ronald Reagan Tpk.), and it would've been sold to both the public and the Feds as a long-haul route between Denver and Chicago (which it basically is today-traffic on 80 in NE is nearly double that of 70 in KS). :-o

3. There would most certainly be one single-number Interstate route from Chicago-Los Angeles, and it surely would've been I-66. There would've been one change, though: The freeway would've ended up following both today's I-17 and I-10 west of Phoenix.  :nod:

4. Florida would've tolled every Interstate on today's map, and FL would've most certainly built a tollway from Tampa Bay-Tallahassee. :spin:

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mightyace

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #6 on: February 19, 2009, 11:17:13 PM »

In Pennsylvania, one huge Pennsylvania Turnpike System!

(The route across northern PA was being studied for another E-W turnpike when the Interstate system was born.)

And, routes that could be successfully tolled would get built before "free" routes!

Like brad2971 said, a lot of current interstate routes would not be built as traffic volumes would be too low.  (I-88 in New York comes to mind.)
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Urban Prairie Schooner

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2009, 12:06:49 AM »

I would wager that without Interstates and other Federal transportation funding, most Louisiana cities would still be connected by two lane roads. A few freeways would have been constructed in the larger urban centers, and Airline Highway would probably have an extra interchange or two, but I doubt anything else would have made it off the ground.

This scenario assumes the absence of all Federal support for highway construction, of course. And even if there were Federal dollars, any major highway projects would take probably triple the time to complete.
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2009, 12:15:12 AM »

Probably very few interstates reaching downtown areas, and more beltways if the interstate system were to start construction today.  Assuming a delay in the start of the system and not 1956 instead having today's environment, there would likely be more four-lane US Routes that would be directly upgraded to interstate standards instead of building the interstate on a parallel alignment.
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V'Ger

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2009, 01:44:57 AM »

One...hour.
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algorerhythms

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2009, 09:44:24 AM »

In Pennsylvania, one huge Pennsylvania Turnpike System!

(The route across northern PA was being studied for another E-W turnpike when the Interstate system was born.)

And, routes that could be successfully tolled would get built before "free" routes!

Like brad2971 said, a lot of current interstate routes would not be built as traffic volumes would be too low.  (I-88 in New York comes to mind.)
So then U.S. 220 would have become Pennsylvania Turnpike 99. :-D
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brad2971

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2009, 10:07:40 AM »

Just to expand somewhat on my comment: Just because SoDak would not have built a freeway connection between Rapid City and Sioux Falls under a NEPA regime, doesn't mean the two cities would only have had two-lane roads. I see two scenarios for those two cities:

1. Since Minnesota would surely have not built I-90 (and I'm sure Froggie can back me up on this) under a NEPA regime, MnDOT and SDDOT would've partnered to help build an upgradable expressway from Sioux Falls to the Twin Cities (through Worthington and Mankato). This would've happened since Sioux Falls (and Fargo/Grand Forks, for that matter) is within the Twin Cities' sphere of influence (if you will).

2. Since a lot of Black Hills tourists then and now come from the Colorado Front Range, SDDOT would've partnered with CDOT and (unlike today's attempts at the Heartland Expressway) WYDOT to build an upgradable expressway between RC and Denver, following today's SD 79, US 18, and (what was then) US 87. This would've tied in to the Valley Highway, which was already on the Colorado Division of Highways' planning books before the Interstate system became law.

3. As for connecting Rapid City and Sioux Falls, let's just say the Missouri River/Lake Francis Case connection would look markedly different. :biggrin:
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John

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #12 on: February 20, 2009, 10:16:56 AM »

Seven days. But really, I'd go with 40-50 years, and that is with some cuts (I-180 in IL and WY, I-86 in ID, alot of I-10 in TX, I-90 in SD, I-94 in ND, etc).
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #13 on: February 20, 2009, 11:57:44 AM »

It would be at least 50 years, probably more.  Just look at how long it's taking to upgrade NY 17 to I-86.  There would probably be a lot more compromises on standards today too.

It would have probably been constructed more like Eisenhower intended, as the NIMBYs would have made sure it never went near a city.
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Chris

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #14 on: February 20, 2009, 12:27:43 PM »

A lot longer, that's for sure.

First of all, there's much more regulation, funding is more an issue and not to mention NIMBY-ism.

Besides that, the amount of people required to use a certain piece of infrastructure has to be much higher now to justify the costs. Not only for freeways, but railways and railway stations were build from the 1800's for an amount of travellers, which would now not qualify feasible/justified to build something for. Construction standards have become higher, and more expensive. The population of the U.S. has boomed since the 1950's, and takes a lot more space now to live and work, hence higher costs to get a right-of-way for instance.

However, this is not just a U.S. thing, construction costs are much higher now in Europe than they were in the 1960's and 1970's, even when adjusted for inflation. You could build a kilometer of freeway for less than $ 750,000 in the 60's/70's, build now nobody even notice it when a kilometer of freeway is set to be constructed for 5 million, or in some cases 80 million per kilometer in rural areas.

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #15 on: February 20, 2009, 01:09:02 PM »

So then U.S. 220 would have become Pennsylvania Turnpike 99. :-D

At least then it would probably be a state route! :clap:
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Freewayjim

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #16 on: February 20, 2009, 02:01:40 PM »

IMO even without NIMBY opposition I'd guess 30-50 years to complete and I agree with many that most of our urban freeways would be left off the board but Beltways would be built to handle larger capacities than they currently are, you'd see more HOV and C/D lane networks and more rural freeways would be 6-8 lanes to better accommodate truck usage.

I don't know that cities would be better off w/o freeways, I think it would be a mistake, but that's another thread for another day.
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #17 on: February 20, 2009, 05:18:23 PM »

Forever and a day. (Nowadays, it just takes forever - lol.)


Be well,

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #18 on: February 20, 2009, 07:26:43 PM »

Considering that new freeways are planned for 20-30 years for completion, I'd say 100 years  :-o to get the whole thing done from scratch. Look at the Ohio River Bridges project, the new span for Interstate 265 is slated for 2020 or later. With funding issues growing and toll roads accelerating in popularity, either roads would never get built or they would all be tolled.

ComputerGuy

Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #19 on: March 22, 2009, 02:05:57 PM »

According to History Channel: Make a road for hovering cars that are connected through fiber optic cables under grass, so rebuild roads to do this and get greenspace

Rebuild the Interstate system this way: 50+ years
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mrivera1

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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #20 on: April 27, 2009, 06:43:18 PM »

Never, just like everything else the government starts. 
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #21 on: April 27, 2009, 08:05:47 PM »

They never stopped building  :-P
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #22 on: April 27, 2009, 09:13:47 PM »

So then U.S. 220 would have become Pennsylvania Turnpike 99. :-D

At least then it would probably be a state route! :clap:

It already is one:  State Route 0099.
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Re: How long would it take to build the Interstate System now?
« Reply #23 on: April 27, 2009, 10:18:05 PM »

it took 37 years to build Houston Harte Expressway in San Angelo, Tx and it ain't even an Interstate
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