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Tyler Cowen

Better Road, Grumpier Drivers and the Logic of Discontent

Improving a California highway may have had benefits, but it didn't speed the commute. There's a lesson in that.
Wider, not better.
Photographer: Dan Chung/Guardian/Camera Press via Redux

As a $1.6 billion project to widen Interstate 405 in Southern California ends, it is becoming evident that this infrastructure program is not improving the flow of traffic for the typical resident. Some observers even are suggesting that congestion now may be worse than before. True or not, that impression is a case study for why there is so much discontent in Western democracies.

Note that longtime residents are undervaluing two aspects of the recent construction. First, without the widening, traffic probably would be worse yet. Second, the widening helps more people undertake the same rotten commute.