Friday, September 6, 2013, by Buddy Saunders
How important is it for pedestrians to walk Abram Street between Cooper and Collins?
Given that almost no one is doing that, most people would say “Not very important.”
But City Hall thinks otherwise. Not only that, City Hall thinks we need to make it easier for the invisible walkers to walk Abram Street by narrowing the street and widening the sidewalks. To that end, our City Council spent $55,000 on an Abram Street (Collins to Cooper) study to determine what would happen if Abram Street (daily traffic count 27,000) were reduced from 5 lanes down to 4, 3 or just 2 lanes. Results: The fewer the lanes, the more the congestion. Duh!
Yes, we have people walking from their cars to Abram Street’s numerous new restaurant, and some pedestrian traffic from City Hall. And the street people never went away. But beyond that, hardly anyone walks on Abram Street and we don’t see how wider sidewalks will change that.
Even so, the current plans call for the city to spend as much as a third of a million dollars total for further studies and citizen “outreach” to convince us that congesting Abram is a small price to pay for wider sidewalks.
Behind this bit of bumblepuppy is the usual green nonsense leavened with crony capitalism.
Tell Mayor Cluck that you have a plan that will get people out of their cars and onto bikes and sidewalks and he swallows the bait, hook, line and sinker. All the better if a well-connected developer or wannabe wants to build a high density mixed-use apartment complex on Abram Street.
At Tuesday afternoon’s City Council meeting, all lane options, from leaving the street as is to reducing it to two lanes, were considered. What the Council majority settled on was a 4 or a 4/5 lane option. Going to 4 lanes would mean eliminating the turn lane. The 4/5 lane option would result in some blocks between Cooper and Collins losing the turn lane.
Councilman Robert Rivera, the most sensible voice on the Council, made it clear that he saw no reason to make any reduction in street lanes.
We were surprised that Mayor Cluck came close to agreeing, saying “It’s not just an incidental road. I’ve been worried for a while—are we going to add to that congestion?” He went on to say that Abram Street is already “wall-to-wall cars” during morning and evening rush hour. We commend Mayor Cluck for this kind of thinking and hope he will stick to it.
Councilman Jimmy Bennett had a different view, saying that reducing the street to a 4 or 4/5 lane street would add “just a minute to the commute time on Abram from Cooper to Collins.” Doesn’t sound so bad? Well, a commuter using Abram to get to work via 360 and then returning later in the day would in a year spend an additional 8.66 hours sitting in his car burning gasoline. That works out to 117,000 hours and God knows how much needlessly wasted gasoline. What these numbers tell us is that our leaders should think first and foremost about maintaining our streets and their full capacity.
Opinion Arlington has done its own Abram Street study at a cost a bit below a third of a million dollars. Here are some highlights from our study:
We already have a pedestrian friendly downtown. What we need is a taxpayer friendly City Council.