It's time for Peter Alviti to retire.
I stumbled upon this article today describing the backups that occurred when a poorly orchestrated change to the traffic patterns on I-95 was instituted. The Projo did not make any deeper insights into the fact that I-95 is almost always clogged, and that perhaps something about the design of I-95 itself is the root of the problem, with these changes being just a symptomatic addition to the problems.
I-95, like other urban interstates, is like a river, with every tributary around it flowing to it for the morning commute. What happens when you funnel everyone into one route? It gets clogged. Kind of simple, but of course our policies in Rhode Island don't recognize this basic fact, and continue to seek solutions that repeat the problem. Yes, if you confuse people during their morning commute about which lanes they're allowed to take, that will exacerbate the problem, but the root issue is that have created this incredibly expensive and cumbersome piece of infrastructure that never under any circumstances, with any degree of planning or expertise, can work. It is a failure by design, and the hubris of Peter Alviti is that he continues to act like a clown pretending that he knows how to tame this tiger, when he does not.
I call on Peter Alviti to resign today, not because of his handling of this problem per se, but because he's shown a complete inability to learn and adapt from mistakes. If seeing the brittleness of the I-95 system hasn't caused Alviti to see that his solution to the 6/10 Connector is as doomed to failure as this one, then he's not fit to run the DOT (And yes, I do think the Providence counterproposal is better, but only marginally, and I think what we really need at this time is a reactivation of the grassroots to demand the shutdown of the 6/10 bridges that are supposedly so unsafe, so that the people of Providence can have time to formulate a plan that they actually like and can live with for decades at a time).
I thought a bit about whether I wanted to make a demand like this. I'm under no illusions that my making such a demand means it will happen, or even much less that people at the top will immediately even taken notice of my having said that Alviti should resign. But I think my role in the ecosystem of thought is to put out ideas whose time may not yet have ripened, and to hope that it emboldens other people to join in the calls, until eventually there are enough people saying a certain thing that it becomes a noticeable trend. We have the power to change the way things are done, and it is a matter of us recognizing that power as a group and acting upon it. Only time will tell how long that awkward dance unfolds before it takes proper course.
Today I sat in a classroom in late October, watching students and a professor argue amongst themselves about how best to cool the room. Is the air conditioning working, they wondered? Should we open the windows? We are in a crisis, and that crisis is not being taken seriously by the people in power. The utter failure of our DOT to adapt will literally without any intended hyperbole or exaggeration lead eventually to the deaths of many, many people, perhaps here, but certainly abroad, as we stumble through the many foreseen and unforeseen challenges of climate change. The crisis is fixable, but we cannot fix it until we recognize the problem and put people in charge who are willing to meaningfully address it.
It's time for a change. We want someone in charge of the DOT that sees highways as the last option, and transit as the first option. We want someone who sees urban highways, in particular, as a dead-end route-- a solution that is too expensive, and that doesn't ultimately work. We want bicycling and walking to be seen as central aspects of the way people get around, and for that to be reflected not at the edges of policy, but at its center. And that requires a change of personnel. It's time for Peter Alviti to retire, and be replaced by someone who is acceptable to the environmental and transit community.