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    Does Istanbul really need a ’third bridge’?

    Hürriyet Haber
    22.04.2009 - 00:00 | Son Güncelleme:

    Istanbul, Europe’s largest city, may well need a new bridge across the Bosphorus to complement the existing two and the soon-to-be-completed subterranean tunnel dubbed "Marmaray." Or, a new bridge may not make sense.

    <ı>As we reported yesterday, general director of highways Cahit Turhan is awaiting municipal designation of a highway corridor in the scope of the city’s master plan for transportation. That done, construction can proceed, he suggests.

    We are of a mind that a broader and fully transparent debate on that master plan should be the next step. Our concern is the inelegant logic with which planning for a third bridge is proceeding. The logic advanced by Turhan is that approximately 450,000 vehicles currently utilize the existing two bridges each day. Congestion suppresses demand, he argues. Were a third bridge in existence, daily traffic would almost immediately jump to 650,000. And that number justifies an intercontinental span, he says.

    Fair enough. But this argument ignores a crucial factor in transportation planning that is a standard consideration in modern transportation engineering. This is the fact that the construction of highways and bridges is not a static demand and response proposition. The construction of roadways is in fact "growth inducing" in planning jargon. A great deal of work on this phenomenon has been carried out in the Netherlands. There is also a virtual literature on the topic available from government agencies in the United States.

    What generally occurs, and we are all witness to this in Istanbul, is that construction generates new housing and commercial development. Soon, the construction justified as a remedy to congestion has created congestion anew and the whole debate starts again.

    In short, it is impossible to build one’s way out of traffic congestion. Attempts to do so only lead to a continuing cycle of rent-seeking land speculation, lobbying by construction firms, political patronage and then a new round of searching for "traffic solutions."

    A transportation master plan is also by definition a plan for managing endangered forest land, for preserving water basins and in particular controlling what scientists call "non-point" pollution. So-called "point pollution" is that which emanates from specific factories or facilities; the non-point variety is that which results from oil dripping from passing cars into riverine systems or from detergents used by thousands of shopkeepers to keep their sidewalks clean. This is an environmental threat, particularly to marine life in the Sea of Marmara, that spreads with wanton expansion of roadways. We do not oppose thoughtful construction of highways, rail systems and, if justified, new bridges. But we believe this should be done within the context of broad public discussion. This is a discussion the Greater Municipality should lead.


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