Building more roads takes social toll, but won't ease...


July 04, 1999

Building more roads takes social toll, but won't ease congestion

The Sun's editorial "Shortchanging transportation" (June 15) rightly urges state leaders to take action on transportation funding.

But first we should ask whether we are we spending our transportation funds wisely. Throwing huge sums into road construction is a bankrupt solution that will waste taxpayer dollars.

According to national and regional transportation studies, we cannot build our way out of congestion in the Washington or Baltimore regions.

Population and household growth, combined with sprawling development patterns, have increased the average annual miles people drive faster than we can keep up by building more highways.

Data collected by the respected Texas Transportation Institute for 70 metropolitan areas around the country indicate that areas that invest heavily in road expansion have fared no better in easing congestion than those that did not.

A lack of alternatives forces many of us to drive nearly every time we have to go anywhere. Massive public and private subsidies have tilted the playing field heavily in favor of auto travel.

Billions of dollars squandered on highways are precious public capital that won't be available for schools, parks, sewage plant upgrades and other essential public works.

Road building also entails enormous hidden social costs. New freeways, and the sprawl that follows, gobble up precious open space, damage communities and the environment, cause more air pollution and increase the polluted runoff that winds up in the Chesapeake Bay.

We need a smarter and less costly approach to transportation spending -- one that reinvests in communities and neighborhoods and makes public transit and pedestrian travel more convenient.

It's time for transportation, business, and elected leaders to join environmentalists in a new and smarter approach to transportation in Maryland -- the Smart Growth state.

George Maurer, Annapolis

The writer is senior planner at the Maryland office of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Connector freeway isn't Smart Growth

In The Sun's editorial "New road must be built" (June 23), we learn that the Transportation Solutions Group Gov. Parris Glendening appointed strongly supports building the Intercounty Connector (ICC) and various reasons Marylanders should want this road built.

But Maryland does not need or want the Intercounty Connector.

According to Draft Environmental Impact Statements on the project published by the Maryland State Highway Administration and the Federal Highway Commission, the ICC would not significantly reduce traffic and actually has the potential to increase it.

The ICC would cost $650 million to $1.09 billion. That's a lot of money to spend on a worthless project. Let's put that money to use improving transit, so we won't have to build or even consider building something like the ICC.

Building the ICC would be neither Smart Growth nor smart economics.

Eric Milstead, Cockeysville

Stars and Stripes need no protection

The Stars and Stripes shine for the hopeful and glow with the respect citizens give to constitutional rule. No detractor can steal that, no Congress can empower it, no judge can interpret it, no jury can judge it and no person can be denied it.

Old Glory needs constitutional protection like the Sun needs a lump of coal.

Quentin D. Davis, Aberdeen

A downtown compromise that saves streetscapes

I have been following the spirited discussion in The Sun regarding the preservation and redevelopment of the downtown's west side and the Howard Street corridor.

The discussion, thus far, has pit historic preservationists against developers. They need to find ways to compromise. If a compromise cannot be found which makes economic sense, I am afraid the whole redevelopment enterprise is doomed to failure.

Although some buildings deserve to be preserved and restored in their entirety, others do not. I suggest that only the facades and the front 20 feet or so of those secondary buildings be saved. Modern office buildings, apartment buildings and hotels, complete with underground parking, could be built behind them.

The preserved historic sections could be used for restaurants, shops and lobbies for the new buildings. This kind of development would generate revenue to fund the restoration of historic buildings and thus preserve the visual richness of the streetscapes so dear to us all.

Examples of this kind of redevelopment can be found in many cities, including Washington.

Raymond M. Heverling, Baltimore

Safer streets, better schools would revitalize the city

Tom Pelton's article "Two views developed on west-side renewal" (June 28) and the Opinion Commentary article "Helping to lift the city" by Avis Ransom and Arnie Graf, both failed to address the two keys to revitalizing Baltimore's west side and improving the city's neighborhoods: lowering the city's crime level and improving the performance of its schools.

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