The good ole days

June 13, 2000

The good ole days

Originally published in issue 49 of Tollroads Newsletter, which came out in May 2000.


Subjects:speed delays in building environmental obstruction

Facilities:Ohio Illinois New Jersey Pennsylvania

The US turnpike pioneers really got stuff built fast. From mobilizing to land acquisition, design and build, to opening of the original 189km (118mi) of the New Jersey Turnpike was 25 months. Of course that was already a bit of a slowdown on the Pennsylvania Turnpike They’d built the first 255km (160mi) of the Penn Pike in the Appalachian mountains in just 20 months. The Ohio Turnpike’s 386km (241mi) was opened Oct 55 after 36 months. Numerous turnpike projects built 80km to 160km/yr (50mi to 100mi/year.) In the late 1950s Illinois showed they could still build fast - getting three tollways totalling 280km (175mi) in just two years - 1957 and 1958. That’s completing 220m to 450m (720 to 1450 feet) each day, Sundays and holidays included. We’re talking everything — acquiring land, design, getting contractors, building big bridges, small ones, interchanges, culverts, all the paving, signing, striping, the lot.

In roadbuilding capacity, we’ve gone dramatically backward!

Take the Raleigh NC I-540 Outer Loop. They awarded the first construction project for this 114km (71mi) project in 1992. The first 10km (6.5mi) section has taken 7 years or a rate of progress of 4m (13 feet) /day. Present plans are for 35km (22mi) to open by 2009 - 6m (19 feet)/day. By that measure we can presently build 5m (16')/day compared to an average of 330m (1,000ft)/day in the middle of the last century. We’ve gone backwards by a factor of about 50!

Now we built 65,000km (41,000mi) of the interstate system in 25 years, or 2600km (1840mi)/yr. If we have suffered a 50-fold reduction to our present pathetic road building capacity it would take us 1,250 years to do the interstate highway system now.

Moore’s Law In Reverse must be what we have in road construction. Our speed has been going OFF by more than a third (?) every year, year after year.

It’s not the fault of the outdoors guys with hardhats of course. They seem to be as quick as ever. It’s the inside wordmongers and yabberers who’ve mucked us up.

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