Monday, December 9, 2013
Anybody got a time machine? There are some city officials in Portland who could use it to reopen the debate about changing traffic patterns in the city. Instead of starting the conversation by saying they were considering turning State and High streets from one-way to two-way to intentionally slow car traffic, they could have tried a different opening.
Like -- how can we make the best use of the millions of dollars in state investment that will soon give traffic a quicker way to go between the Casco Bay Bridge and Interstate 295?
Both statements speak to solving the same problem, but the second one invites a constructive conversation that involves state transportation officials and commuters and visitors as well as local residents. The first just starts another pointless fight between car lovers and car haters that has gotten Portland nowhere in the past.
The fact is that State and High streets are major arteries that people rely on for access between the bridge and the interstate. It's also a fact that having those arteries pass through a neighborhood lined with homes, offices and commercial space is less than ideal.
Everyone should admit that it would be better for everyone if traffic could bypass downtown Portland instead of bisect it. And everyone should agree that making life difficult for drivers by intentionally slowing down and backing up traffic is not a solution to the neighborhood's problems.
A better approach would be to use the improved streets around the Veterans Memorial Bridge to get across town. If most people did that, it wouldn't matter whether High and State streets were one-way or two-way: There would be fewer vehicles, making them safer for neighbors.
This conversation needs a new start, with a mutually beneficial traffic bypass of downtown being the goal.