Friday, December 30, 2011

Contrasts and Transformations

Orlando is a central Florida city with over 200,000 occupants (as of 2010 according to the U.S. Census). While the Great Recession might have slowed down the growth and thus the construction business, lately there's been a long solid series of projects popping up around the city, such as road projects on and around the 408. Going into 2012, my meta-project is to better document how Orlando is growing, how it has grown, and how the various sections within the city compare and contrast with one another.

Over and Underpassing
End of the Road

These were taken late morning at the I-4 and 408 interchange, right before Division goes underneath the 408. The upper picture has the Sun Trust building sandwiched between the 408-to-I-4 exit above, and the main 408 below. The lower is the start of that 408-to-I-4 exit, with another unfinished ramp start on the left. The 408/I-4 spaghetti junction has grown quite large and complicated over time, with several other junctions (408 and 417, Turnpike and 429) getting just as complicated. And surface streets are popping up too. There's the newly completed President Barack Obama Parkway that now runs from Conroy to where Metrowest Blvd used to dead end.

Somebody thinks we need all this additional infrastructure, in spite of the fact that (according to NPR), the U.S. is now exporting more finished petroleum products (gasoline and diesel fuel) for the first time in 60 years. That's because we're not using nearly as much gas as we did during the peak of 2007, right before the Great Recession really took hold.

And the drop's been pretty precipitous. According to one NPR article we're going to see the same level of gas consumption this coming January we had in January 2000. Twelve years ago. Even though our national population has grown by 30 million since then (Orlando's population grew nearly 30% between 2000 and 2010), the relentless rise in gas price combined with the relentless loss of jobs has pushed our national consumption downward at an ever accelerating rate.

And the decline in consumption will only get worse if, as predicted, Iran's shenanigans in the Strait of Hormuz to cut 1/6th of the world's oil supply results in $5/gallon gas over here. Pure economics will push us even further to be more thrifty, and thus push our consumption down even further that much faster. That means fewer cars of all types (conventional gas, hybrid, even EV) traveling fewer miles.

I guess one question to ask is, are we building new roads and overpasses, chopping up Orlando even more, for dwindling traffic? I know we need the jobs, but what kind of long-term planning is that? Those projects will be finished soon enough. But we can't keep building more empty roads, especially if taxes from gas and tolls decline due to another spike in gas.

2012 is going to be an interesting year.

Technical

Photos taken with the Olympus E-P2 and the M.Zuiko 45mm 1:1.8. Post processed with Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro.

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