The BLA/OTBypass Discussion Continues…Is It A Road? Or, A Place?
Over the past 5 days I’ve appreciated the discussion about the West Boardman Lake Avenue/Old Town Bypass. Brilliant stuff; keep it coming.
It is reflective of the potential this project has to be a force that brings the community together. Unfortunately, it also has the potential of creating another divide in the community with its narrow focus on further subsidizing our automobile habit as a solution to the problems associated with that very habit.
The Confidence Gap
The City, staff and earlier commissions, haven’t done themselves or the citizens a favor through 30-years of at best ignoring, at worst working against, the concerns of the neighborhoods. No one knows this more astutely than the long-term residents in Old Town. As some of them consistently point out, they have been at it for 30-years; they are fed-up and ready for something. Anything.
This is the real promise that has surfaced, that because it was an accepted solution 20-years ago that it remains one for today. BLA/OT Bypass proponents now have something to lose, albeit just an assumption that this road would work. To convince them that they have more to gain with a holistic approach is nearly impossible: loss aversion kicks in heavy when we perceive to be losing more than we stand to gain.
Echoing a reader’s comment from the weekend, there is the added problem that there simply isn’t the trust that the City is capable of steering an effective, quality based process for a new road, because they have yet to prove that they can apply the needed measures to our current streets. When I think through the consequences of the BLA/OT Bypass being built over the next year or two, the term “boondoggle” comes to mind. My own state of loss aversion also kicks in because of the high hopes for the West Boardman Lake corridor, as well as the pleasant connection between my home on the Eastside to my friends and businesses in Old Town that I now enjoy. The trail and the pedestrian bridge are valuable assets.
There remains too many potentially disastrous unknowns and no guarantee it even adequately addresses the issues on Cass and Union and Lake. Some unknowns we must live with, but ignoring or sugar-coating the possible negative impacts, either through obfuscation or ignorance, will only further erode community confidence. We will be left with yet another physical and social divide.
Form Influences Behavior
The discussion over the weekend recognized the philosophical nature of the BLA/OT Bypass debate. Can government influence behavior? I differ in outlook from comments made by Rick and Chris on this point because infrastructure design isn’t neutral.
If you build for automobile traffic, automobile traffic is what you will get.
I’m not an ideologue on the subject and recognize that there is historical legacy we are inheriting; we will continue to spend millions of dollars a year subsidizing our automobile habit whether I like it or not. However, I also fully recognize that any influence I have today will primarily be realized tomorrow; others will inherit my generation’s legacy.
It isn’t about giving everyone a bus pass or cycling shorts, those glib suggestions demean the discussion. It’s about investing in the future for what we intend to leave behind and the solutions just may include bus passes. “Growth” needn’t assume expensive, in costs, externalities and opportunity, outlays for one form of transportation.
Unfortunately, the previous generation was caught-up in wider, faster and increasingly costly urban designs that prioritized motor vehicle mobility over creating neighborhoods and places to be. It was a choice and it is influencing today’s behavior and our choices.
Still, I don’t think the cultural change is 3-decades away. It started yesterday and we, as a city, a community, are running late. If the City moves ahead with building a new road, it’s not the end of my world. It will just represent another 30-50 years of the things as they are and another road that we have to cross.
Related MyWHaT Articles
- Record Eagle Assumes Too Much About W. Boardman Lake Ave.
- Boardman Lake Ave. Will Do One Thing For Certain, Create Traffic
- What’s Your Advocacy Pleasure? Streets, Parks, Tunnels…Trash? We Have It All This Week
- The Old Towne Traffic Calming District…Why Not?
- Serious Questions Expressed About Boardman Lake Ave.
- Reminder: Monday Night Study Session On Boardman Lake Ave. and Other Weekly Chatter
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