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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...


The 6/10 Connector: set to take 4 out of 7 proposed toll dollars: do we need it?
Lots of places around the country are still struggling with the culture-warring that can surround attempts to move beyond a car-oriented society. Even though there are solid equity and environmental reasons to be urbanist, left-leaning groups will sometimes misunderstand important housing, parking, or congestion management policies as too capitalist. The right in America has often married itself to (shall we say?) a certain demographic as well: attempts to block zoning deregulation often come from far-right fears of people of color or poor people, even though upzoning and removal of parking minimums are often far more market-based approaches to town or city development than our current arrangements.

So isn't it nice when we can find a respite from the bickering? Perhaps Rhode Island (or, as it is officially called, "The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations") can be the place for that.

Harbor Drive, Portland, Oregon: a model for what could be on 6/10?
I consider myself firmly footed on the left. The first presidential candidate I voted for (in a completely inconsequential Pennsylvania primary) was Dennis Kucinich. I think I see myself most likely voting for Bernie Sanders or Fmr. Governor Chafee (ironic?). But I am really genuinely impressed by some of the smart questions that some Republicans are raising in Rhode Island about the need to reform our transportation system.

The proposal to remove an urban highway along 6/10 has gotten strong encouragement by Rep. Art B. Handy (D-Cranston), whose politics, like mine, are centered in the left. Nonetheless, I'm impressed by Handy's forward-thinking championing of this bill, since Rt. 10 is a direct highway to Cranston. Suburban neighborhoods like Cranston will actually see their commute times improve if a boulevard is in place--but who would be surprised if a politician didn't want to be the first out there to take that stance?

It looks like Rt. 6/10's potential to become a boulevard instead of an urban highway blight is pretty bipartisan in Rhode Island:
Rep. Dan Reilly's (R-Portsmouth) comments mirror similar ones by Minority Leader Brian C. Newberry (R-N. Smithfield and Burrilleville). Newberry stated at last night's Finance Committee meeting that 6/10 had been a burden on Providence's Olneyville neighborhood, and asked Director Alviti of RIDOT if removal was in consideration (Alviti has said all options are on the table).

That these rural-district Republicans can grasp the destruction of urban highways and look to the betterment of the entire state is part of what makes Rhode Island a great place.
Harbor Drive, Portland, Oregon (as a highway).

Providence is in the top-ten for highway lane-miles per capita (by the way, hat-tip to Next STL for that stat. We're #8 to St. Louis' #2 spot). The fact that Providence is the only northeastern city to make it to that list is also a big determinant of why Rhode Island is #50 for bridge condition in the country. We can't afford the level of infrastructure we have for the number of people it supports. The urban highway blight that litters our landscape has also been a major problem for development, environmental management, and other important concerns in our state. Smart Republicans (who I might disagree with on many other things) are asking questions like why we should have to bond all the time in order to keep up our infrastructure. Morgan's overall tone of attacking bus lanes as the main problem is not one I share, obviously, but I do share her worry that bus lanes as part of a raised highway will become like the failed Wickford Junction station:
The answer to Morgan's question is that we should not pay an arm and a leg to expand a harmful highway in order to add bus lanes, but we should redevelop that highway as a boulevard with bus lanes, so that development can form close to the bus right-of-way and encourage actual ridership. If we don't do that, then she's probably right to expect failure.
Smart liberals know that urban highways hurt poor people and the environment. Smart conservatives know bad transportation decision-making hurts business and taxpayers. Smart politicians work across party lines to fix problems that are common to their diverse constituencies.


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