A blog for better streets and public spaces in Portland, Maine.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

"The answer isn't freeways; the answer is MORE ways"

Update on the PACTS 2009 list of "high priority projects" (previously reported on here and here):

PACTS has so far received 14 unsolicited letters from the general public and from one City Councilor (Kevin Donoghue). PACTS staff collected the responses thus far and sent them back out to their committee members, commenters, and other interested parties. These 14 letters make for some pretty inspiring reading:

"Now is the time to think about alternatives to the tried and failed expansion of highways as a means for alleviating traffic pressure." - Derek Pelletier, Portland

"We all like to think we are a forward-thinking community -- and PACTS exists to be forward-thinking for this region. Please make the 2009 transportation priorities reflect our true needs." - Sarah Cushman, Portland

"I would like to be able to find a bicycle route to take me home which allows me to stop at one of the shops or restaurants on the peninsula without having to make a huge detour, ride an unsafe route, or ride illegally, which are my only options right now." - Mark Sauerwald, Cumberland

"The best way to improve our transportation system for all users, drivers included, is to give as many people as possible the option not to drive." - Erik Osborn, Portland

"[Alternative modes] are time-tested, effective - not to mention social, community-minded, and ecological - alternatives to bigger highways. Why not be leaders and do something great? The answer isn't freeways; the answer is MORE ways." - Amy Chamberlain, Bath

We also received this reaction from Jon Graback of Portland on the Bike/Ped Committee's e-mail list. Jon was one of the 14 commenters:

Not one of the 14 public comments supports PACTS high-priority ranking of several major highway projects - not one! I was surprised at the unanimity of the comments. There must be someone out there who still wants to see new highway projects built to alleviate traffic congestion, but if there is, they didn't bother to submit a comment to PACTS. Several major national polls I have seen over the past few years basically say the same thing - people want less highway spending, but more for mass transit and other non-car alternatives. And by wide margins, people want more freight to shift from heavy trucks to rail.

PACTS and MDOT are currently caught in a squeeze between limited availability of funding for very expensive new highway projects that apparently hardly anybody wants, and almost no funding for new mass-transit, bikeway and pedestrian projects that almost everybody wants! In this new era of exorbitant energy prices, global warming, and highway gridlock, it is apparent that Federal and State funding priorities have fallen behind what the majority of the public wants and needs. The oil, automobile and trucking industries still maintain a chokehold on the federal government (and some state governments like New Hampshire), but their vice-like grip is starting to slip in the face of widespread public defection.

If you haven't written a letter of your own, yet, there's still time to join the revolt: PACTS won't meet to reconsider this list for another week. Check this previous post for talking points and contact information.

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