Friday, March 21, 2008

Board kills 'bypass' highway on San Pedro River

Historic post office at Cascabel AZ along the San Pedro River

KOLD CBS 13 coverage by Bud Foster. AZ Daily Star article.

Star, 3/22: "We have billions of dollars going into road projects and pennies going into other forms of transportation," said Daniel Patterson, a city planning commissioner and Southwest director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

He said building a bypass would be expensive and would encourage growth in sensitive areas.

"Let's kill this bypass boondoggle now. Let's do better. Let's invest in rail," Patterson said.

TUCSON -- The Arizona State Transportation Board faced a feisty crowd downtown today opposed to a metro Tucson 'bypass highway'.

Nearly everyone who spoke, including me, opposed the bypass idea due to high economic, environmental and social costs, and instead favored more rail for cargo and people, infill development within the urban core, and sustainable transportation that won't need huge new roads.

The Arizona Game & Fish Dept. courageously sent a rep to tell the board they opposed it as well, due to threats to wildlife and habitat.

Board Chairman, long-time sprawl development guy Si Schorr of Pima County, placed the item #19 on the agenda, forcing everyone to wait for hours to speak. He also limited public comment to 45 minutes, cutting off many from being able to address the board. After cutting off public comment, he went on a long spew about how we just had to have these giant new roads.

AZ Dept. of Transportation head, Victor Mendez, left the meeting during the middle of public comment, apparently not caring enough about citizens' views to stay and listen.

Earlier in the meeting Mendez introduced the new head of ADoT planning, who previously worked on transportation planning in Houston. We don't yet know the new head planner's views, but Houston has one of the worst 'one person, one car' big highway-centric systems in the nation, and relatedly some of the worst pollution, poverty and urban sprawl. Hardly an encouraging model for planning future transportation in Arizona. We don't need or want Houston or LA in Tucson and southern Arizona, we can and must do better and be smarter on transportation.

In the end, the board unwisely decided to keep wasting money 'studying' the unpopular bypass highway idea, but did take a step in the right direction by eliminating the San Pedro River route from further consideration, at least for now. The board's approved motion also emphasized focus on improvements within existing corridors, including the I-10 right of way. On the bad side, they did not eliminate the equally absurd Aravaipa route proposal from further consideration.

Make no mistake about it, the bypass highway boondoggle isn't just about moving trucks or traffic, it's primarily about fueling real estate speculation, urban sprawl and State Land sales along the route.

The Tucson bypass is a bad idea that should be stopped now before more taxpayer money is wasted 'studying' it.

No comments: