Tuesday, May 26, 2009

So You've Got a Philosophy?

In "A Train to Crazytown", I wrote about how the ACHD commission does not have an overarching philosophy that would tie all of our decisions together.

So I thought I should give an accounting of what my philosophy is and of course, what I think the commission's policy should be. First though, let's set the stage.

We know that money is tight and it is clear from all that is going on, money will continue to be tight into the foreseeable future. It is highly likely that this area will never see the growth rate that we had in the past. There will be growth sometime in the future, but it will not be hell bent for leather like it was before. In the interim, money from property tax will be down. Money from the gas tax will be down. Money from sales tax will be down. Money from impact fees will be down.

At the same time we know we have declining revenues, we have put together a 20 year capital improvements plan that adds up to $1.1billion in projects. Insanity. We may be following the State rules on this, but it's still insanity.

People want traffic to move and I think ACHD does too for the most part. The question is, how do we make that happen? Do we continue to put together exceedingly expensive plans for 5 lane roads and new bridges the construction of which is pushed further and further into the future or do we find a more inexpensive and efficient way to make traffic flow?

Obviously, my choice is the latter. We know we can fix intersections, we know we can time lights. We can put in roundabouts that work well in other areas instead of massive 7 lane intersections that may not have a right hand turn lane and with 2 left turn lanes do not allow for permissive left turn signals.

There are technologies, and ACHD uses them in some places, that allow for freer movement. Have you been on Eagle Rd lately? It flows much better than a few years ago because of the new Intelligent Transportation System (ITS).

Rather than undergoing studies and developing plans for massive road projects that will really never be built, we need to spend our money on practicalities. ITS, roundabouts, a permissive left turn green system that can be used most everywhere, right hand turn lanes - these are all systems we know are effective in moving traffic and there probably are others.

We really do not need to pretend that we can fund $1.1 billion in projects. We do need to move traffic. If a study or an effort does not result in moving traffic efficiently, then we really should not be wasting our time. And if we do need large road projects as a result of development, then developers should pay for those through exactions because impact fees are not up to the task.

Regardless of what the future holds, the ACHD commission really does need to start talking about it to come up with a coherent policy.


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