Opinion: Letter to the Editor: For Added Road Fat

Opinion: Letter to the Editor: For Added Road Fat

Even if I don't agree, I can at least respect candidates who defend the Seminary Road "diet." Two decades ago, on the country's Left Coast, the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium advocated reversing "induced demand" (the tendency for newly constructed automobile travel lanes to fill up as soon as they're built) by "depaving" (removing travel lanes). This idea went out of fashion, perhaps because it forgot that people still have to get places public transportation and bicycles won't take them expeditiously and taking away travel lanes people have gotten used to using induces them to cut-through neighborhood streets instead.

What totally nonplusses me is how candidates who admit the Seminary Road "diet" may well have been a mistake don't want to spend the money to correct it. This attitude shows why our hit-or-miss city government lacks accountability because shrugging off mistakes creates little incentive against making more mistakes. These candidates insist that funds which would be spent undoing the Seminary Road "diet" should be redirected to more pressing needs, such as pandemic relief, which shows that they (i) do not understand city budgeting, (ii) are overly indulgent of the city's poor public administration, and (iii) are not thinking "outside the box" about ways to cure and prevent such errors.

City hall has a budget for repaving streets. The streets scheduled for repaving are determined a few years in advance such that, if funding was diverted from this budget to undo the Seminary Road "diet", it would simply mean that some other repaving projects would be bumped down the list to the following year. Very few streets are in such bad shape that they can't wait another year to be repaved. The deterrent effect of docking a city budget line to correct its mistakes (recall that it was staff which appealed the Traffic and Parking Board's rejection of the Seminary Road "diet") will change bureaucratic incentives so that, in the long run, fewer mistakes will be made.

Because road "diets" have been so controversial, a truly accountable repaving budget would have separate budget lines for standard repavings versus "road diet" repaings. If a "road diet" had to be undone or subsequently modified, the funding to do so would come from the road diet budget line, meaning some future planned road diet(s) would have to wait an additional year. In no event would funding come from pandemic relief or anything else that isn't part of the city's transportation and environmental services department's road paving budget line(s).

Dino Drudi