The 14 members of the Eisenhower-Duke Connector Task Force have voted and are preparing a report to City Council. However, there seems to be disagreement about what they decided.
Mayor Kerry J. Donley, a member of that task force, said, “Council gave us a very clear direction. The task force was unable to do what Council asked, so we, as elected officials, are going to have to make a decision based on the staff’s recommendation and the technical data that is brought to us.”
Ginny Hines Parry, also a member of the task force, and representing the Clover College Park Citizens Association, wrote to contacts on Sept. 19, “Good news! The Eisenhower-Duke Connector Task Force met last night to vote on the various build and no-build options. There was an overwhelming support for not building a connector anywhere.”
The vote between no-build and no-build-with-improvements options was 7-7. Those voting in favor of the no-build-with-improvements option were Donley, Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper, Judy Miller, Jim Cisco, JoAnne Tomasello, Parry and George Foote.
“Those who voted for the no-build-with-improvements option seem to be saying that they recognize that we have some type of a flow problem to and from the Eisenhower Valley,” said Richard Baier, the city’s director of Transportation and Environmental Services. “Even though some of these same people aren’t willing to support a connector, they are saying that we need to do something.”
That no-build-with-improvements option would make improvements at Van Dorn Street and would cost between $55 and $60 million, more than any of the build options, according to data that has been compiled by T&ES staff. “This is also the most disruptive option as far as impact on current traffic,” Baier said.
WHILE ALL OF THE build options were defeated by both no-build and no-build-with-improvements options, the two build options that received the most votes were the Bluestone option at Wheeler and Quaker and one of the options that goes through the eastern edge of Ben Brenmann Park.
The Bluestone option received five votes from Joe Bennett, Lois Walker, Sharon Hodges, Bill Harvey and Converse West. B1, one of the Park options, received votes from Judy Miller, Walker, Hodges, Harvey and West. Roth Street, a park option and the westernmost option were all defeated by either 14-0 or, in the case of Roth Street, 14-3 votes against.
“When they expanded the task force, what we did, changed,” Bennett said. “Before, we were very attentive and involved in the analytical studies that the consultants were doing and open to discussion and sharing ideas back and forth and making sure that we understood what the consultants were doing. After the task force was expanded, there were people who viewed their mission as opposing any connector. We’re not giving Council what they wanted.
"I think that what we are giving them is that seven people don’t want any connector at all, and of the seven who are willing to support some build alternative, there is no clear choice. I think that the staff’s recommendation will weigh heavily with Council at this point. I would like to say that Rich Baier deserves a gold medal for what he has done. He has been very fair, very thorough and very challenging in a nice way. The city is very fortunate to have someone of that caliber involved in this process.”
The task force will review and amend its report to Council on Sept. 26. On Oct. 23, Council will hold a work session on the subject. On Oct. 29, there will be a public hearing, and on Nov. 12, Council will vote.