Monday, April 7, 2008

Bypassing Logic

John Coleman, Fayetteville's Sustainability Coordinator, has a good point. "Watching the Regional Mobility Authority (RMA ) discussion about future road bypasses in Northwest Arkansas, I can’t help but think we are missing an opportunity," he says. Outdated planning and constructing more bypasses has only "led to more sprawl and more traffic and eventually the need for more... bypasses? It seems plausible that there may be a better model for absorbing growth in American cities."

The Northwest Arkansas Council of Corporations and Wealthy Business Executives behind the proposed Regional Mobility Authority
wants to spend billions for bypasses and a western beltway that would foster even more sprawl. "A much more economically efficient approach to this problem would be for the RMA to make a concerted effort at regional planning," Coleman suggests. "Developing dense and walkable cities with a vision to provide mass transit for the daily commuter would significantly reduce vehicle miles traveled, squeeze greater economic gains from each acre of land, avoid future tax increases for inefficient infrastructure and open existing roadways to the necessary transport of commerce." He's right, of course.

Instead of repeating the expensive and outdated approaches that have created the current problems, Coleman says that only a
"few million dollars spent on urban planning and the political will for implementation would go much farther." The crux of the problem is that the Northwest Arkansas Regional Planning Commission (NWARPC) is the very agency that is supporting the bypass follies of the Regional Mobility Authority.

City Planning and Development Director Tim Conklin is Fayetteville's representative on the NWARPC Executive Committee, and Aldermen Brenda Thiel and Shirley Lucas are on the Board. These are the people who have been appointed to represent us and present our transportation vision for the future. If he is serious about making a difference, Mr. Coleman would be well advised to share his views directly with them, as well as Judge Jerry Hunton and John Gibson, who represent Washington County on the NWARPC.

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