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

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Change is coming

In two months, we'll have a city-dwelling, bike-riding president and a rail-commuter vice president.

Throughout his campaign, Barack Obama made it clear that he understands the relationships between global warming, the health of our cities, our reliance on expensive oil, the health of our economy, and our transportation system.

Maine's Turnpike Authority and Department of Transportation have consistently proven that they don't understand the connections among these challenges. During the next four years, these agencies will either change radically, or find themselves starved of funding.

Among those in the running to lead the federal Department of Transportation are Congressman Earl Blumenauer (who gets around car-free in DC with his bike and deserves a lot of credit for making the other Portland the transit and bike-friendly nirvana it is), Congressman Jim Oberstar, and Jeanette Sadik-Khan, a congestion-pricing advocate who is currently tearing out car lanes and replacing them with protected bike lanes and public plazas in New York City. All three have done a lot to tear down highway-building orthodoxy already, and all three would bring tremendous changes to federal transportation policy.

Already, Democrats in Congress are talking about a "green infrastructure" stimulus package, which could invest billions in transit projects and basic maintenance nationwide. Because Maine's DOT has dropped the ball on planning new transit services, Maine won't even be at the table for hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of federal funds.

The Turnpike Authority and MDOT need to get with the program. It's our way or the highway - and the highway isn't an option anymore.

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