Shadow (dariaphoebe) wrote,

Something happens to the pledges of trust; Down through the years they begin to rust

Driving along somewhere between here and New Jersey, I passed a piece of empty land which was for sale. This piece was probably undeveloped because the terrain made it prohibitive to do so; You'd either need to dig it out to make a flat surface, or build a retaining wall and fill it to level, and that sort of investment is only justified in an area which is heavily built up and all the easy pickings are gone, which wasn't true wherever this was. Well, I started to think about keeping land empty, which is unpopular with some and liked by others. Having the state hold land does have some drawbacks and of course the benefits of it staying not developed if you see that as a benefit and trust your governing body to do so. Well, this is all subjective, like so much else.

Ok, well, let's take a different view. 2 places in the (larger) area around Pittsburgh have proposed Wal-Marts. I'll pick on these because both are greenfield developments (the new Wal-Mart outside Greensburg was built on the site of Greengate Mall; clearly not a greenfield development). One is supposed to be on the Lincoln Hills golf course by the Irwin (US30) turnpike interchange. The other is supposed to be on the site of Dixmont State Hospital above PA65 in Kilbuck. (There are other ongoing developments in this area, but for instance "Pittsburgh Mills" along PA28 is getting an interchange of its own.

So, what costs are not being accounted for? Well, at least for the one near Irwin the plans called for another at-grade intersection. And, looking at terrain I'd guess the same thing would happen in Kilbuck. So, every person who gets stopped for the new traffic light is subsidizing the developer with their time and the gasoline costs for their idling vehicle. PennDOT has a concept called "levels of service" which basically is a way of measuring the throughput of a road. The relevant portion of PA65 is essentially semi-limited access, and so presumably is "A". An article I recall reading said US30 was already either "C" or "D" and yet the state gave a traffic permit which would permit this to be degraded further.

I have (more notably in more recent years) a left-leaning view of the world. Perhaps despite that, but perhaps complementary to it, I have never had an anti-development stance. My brother works for a company which does engineering site plans for new housing developments and such, and I have argued with him about similar issues; It took a while before (I think) he finally understood, if not necessarily agreed with, my position, namely, if you want to develop your land, that typically is your right, but it's not fair that you force me to subsidize it, especially in ways where the cost is effectively unbounded.

Clearly this can be taken further, for instance, actually considering the cost of acreage devoted to trees needed to clean carbon dioxide from the air, or the cost of removal of pollutants from air, water or land, and thus charged against the cost of things. A mailing list I'm on recently had an off-topic flame war about the detrimental effects of the EPA on jobs, where several participants basically took the "screw the environment, people need to work, and moving production to China simply shifts the pollution" argument. Of course, to them, the only way to fix this is to scrap environmental protections. None commented when I put forth the notion of tariffs set based on the value of equivalent environmental protections skipped.

Are we screwed? Is the "me first" even to the point of killing yourself later in life because you wanted to sustain yourself now that ingrained in this species?

One other thing: you'd figure a more "smart" development, if not necessarily anti-development, stance would be had by those who have more hawkish views but wish to achieve security by becoming insular. Needing fewer delay-based traffic control devices certainly helps to lessen the demand for foreign oil, at least as long as we continue to burn gasoline substantially as the fuel we use. As you might expect of me this doesn't mean I've punted on the value of transit, but it needs to go places frequently enough that it's efficient to use, and as long as we're neglecting costs of some things but fully charging the costs of others, many cases where transit could be provided are going to look like a bad deal and thus get the short shrift.

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