Traffic problems not always solved by 'popular' solution

Published: Wednesday, January 21, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 20, 2004 at 11:41 p.m.

Kudos to Ron Cunningham (Jan. 18) for reminding us that our transportation problems are complex and that the long term answers are not simple.

At a candidate forum during the last City Commission race, when one candidate was asked about Gainesville's transportation problems, he responded simply, "Just like the doctor says, larger arteries are better."

In making a cardiovascular analogy, our roadway network is also a circulatory system, in which cars (or corpuscles) need to flow smoothly to their destination. Major arteries need many minor arteries (major and minor collectors) to take their flow to capillaries (residential roads). If traffic can't circulate, it clogs main arteries.

Traffic flow is circulation, which relies on many connections to keep traffic moving. As with blood, it helps to have alternative routes to the main artery to relieve pressure or to take traffic to its destination in case of a blockage. This is "connectivity."

When driving in west Gainesville, land of the subdivisions with one or two access roads, I am reminded of the joke, "You can't get there from here." If these subdivisions had a few two-lane roads running through them, so traffic could "connect" to destinations on the other side, it would relieve congestion of our main arteries.

Unfortunately, most of Gainesville is already built, so we must rely on Band-Aid solutions to deal with traffic.

In some places we may be able to reconnect streets that have been blocked off; however, this will be passionately opposed by neighborhoods. Politicians, always trying to avoid controversy, will instead propose an expensive "popular" alternative.

The County Commission has a golden opportunity to ensure good transportation for our children and grandchildren by helping design an interconnecting network of streets in the area west of I-75.

However, the recent Comprehensive Plan changes allowing subdivisions with one entry road and gated communities will probably condemn us to the same traffic problems we have today.

I'm not against large arteries (four-lane roads) - we need them to take large volumes of traffic through our urban area. But we need to be reminded that they are very expensive, less safe, and often cannot be retrofitted into urban areas.

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