Davis: Wide roads are killing our children and financial productivity

Wide roads are unsafe and decrease the value of the land that surround them, it’s time for Scottsdale to change their speed-focused road building paradigm.

Daniel Davis

Let’s say you had to rank these three characteristics when it comes to road building: speed, safety and cost. Most people would pick safety first, then cost, then speed. However, the design of most of our roads in Scottsdale prioritizes speed over cost and safety.

Let’s start out with one statistic. According to the CDC, the leading case of death in children older than one year is motor vehicle collisions. Charles Marohn, a civil engineer and founder of nonprofit strongtowns puts it this way:

“Imagine two 9/11 attacks each year that killed just kids and you still would not have the number of child fatalities America has each year from auto accidents.”

The numbers are sobering. Why do we tolerate this?

Motor vehicle collisions are the No. 1 one cause of death ages 1-34. The youngest of us are getting killed by our need for speed! The design of a road tremendously impacts safety of our roads.

Wide roads induce fast speeds that increase the likelihood of a death in the event of a collision. We need to rethink building wide roads as the default, and instead consider narrower, slower roads that induce slower speeds. This concept is termed traffic calming, and is being adopted by cities all over the nation to tame dangerous roads.

Almost all of us know people killed or injured in collisions. Imagine your friend or loved one who was struck in a motor vehicle collision? Do you think the design of the road played a factor? Are you angry?

The other downfall of wide, fast roads is that they cost a lot to maintain and bring down the value of the land they are forced through. Development around wide, fast roads shrinks away from the road and demands massive parking lots because no one in their right mind would do anything but drive there. Parking lots and empty space between buildings are not considered developed land, and are therefore not required to pay all that much in property taxes.

This surge in unproductive space causes a declining tax base, and all the extra road creates more maintenance cost. That is the asphalt, the pipes underneath the road, the resurfacing, the paint.

Wide roads have more maintenance cost (high liabilities) and induce the creation of low tax yield properties (low assets). To make a comparison narrower streets are associated with more intense land uses, which have incredibly high tax yields. Walkable business districts provide huge yield in taxes, which easily cover the cost of maintenance of their local streets plus more.

Speed is not our No. 1 priority. Wide roads are killing our children and killing the financial productivity of our places. It’s time to rethink our approach to road building.

Editor’s note: Mr. Davis is a Scottsdale resident

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