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

Friday, April 4, 2008

The million dollar parking lot

I've written before about how the new Maine Turnpike Headquarters Building won't include new sidewalks on Jetport Road because Turnpike hacks explicitly stated their disapproval of pedestrians walking in the area (see The Maine Turnpike Authority Resents Your Legs, published July 5 2007).

But that, alone, would be too benign an indignity for a neighborhood subjected to a Turnpike construction project. So the Authority also is planning to build an unnecessary parking lot that will send more oil-soaked runoff into Maine's most polluted watershed - and tollpayers will pay the million-dollar bill.

Portland's suburban office-park zoning in this neighborhood already requires more parking than ever gets used, but the Authority decided to tack on an additional 50 parking spaces than required by those generous requirements. At approximately $20,000 a pop, these extra parking spaces will cost an additional $1 million dollars - your toll revenues at work to keep the glorious promise of Socialized Parking alive!

Obviously, it's highly unlikely that these fifty extra spaces in the distant hinterlands of the Turnpike Authority's new parking lot will ever be used.

But hey, the Turnpike wants to be EXTRA SURE that no one will EVER have to walk an extra 1/10th of a mile from the existing park and ride lot to the new headquarters building. The million dollar parking lot rescues Turnpike employees from the heart-straining indignity of walking 200 yards from their cars to their offices.

Unfortunately, we're not just paying for this extravagance in toll money: this parking lot happens to sit in the headwaters of Long Creek, the state's most polluted watershed and currently the subject of a Clean Water Act lawsuit. Because of excessively huge parking lots like this one, development throughout the Long Creek watershed (in the heart of Maine's largest metropolitan area) will be severely hampered, and Casco Bay's water quality will continue to suffer.

One reason why the Turnpike Authority subscribes to the narrow-minded maxim that more pavement is good for our economy is because of its consistent failure to acknowledge the costs and impacts that its pavement exacts on surrounding infrastructure, whether it's built (dumping traffic and congestion onto local streets and roads), social (draining life and commerce from walkable downtown areas in Portland, Biddeford, and Lewiston) or natural (sending oil-soaked runoff into wetlands like Long Creek).

It would be nice if the Turnpike Authority spent our money at addressing some of these real problems. Instead, they're throwing millions around to study and "solve" problems they've fabricated themselves in their compartmentalized fantasy world.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the longer they fail to reform themselves, the less viable their agency will be in a century of expensive oil and limited budgets.

The Maine Turnpike Authority is busily paving the way to their own irrelevance.

1 comment:

Corey Templeton said...

I agree with your view, but I don't think there is much of a neighborhood in this area. It's a wasteland already.