I received an innocuous but official-looking postcard in the mail recently from the Regional Transportation Authority (whose authority may or may not derive from Tucson voters, depending on what you make of the lawsuits against Pima County's election apparatus). It notified me that I am officially a "Grant Road resident" due to my home's proximity to that thoroughfare, and that the city of Tucson wants my input on the Grant Road Improvement Plan. It directed me to a Web site to seek more information.
I rather enjoy seeking information, not to mention inputting, so I dove right in.
Reading through the Web site, I quickly discovered that buzzwords were the order of the day. Vitality, mobility, sustainability, functionality, best practices, multi-modal, sense of place, blah, blah and blah. Wading through these to find the core meaning, I happened upon this gem: "Context Sensitive Solutions." I could tell it must be more Important than the rest due to its Capitalization.
Apparently, CSS is a brand-spankin'-new design process that incorporates Context into the Solution. According to the Web site, "Conventional thoroughfare design is driven by traffic demand and level of service objectives. The design process starts with functional classification and number of lanes." But CSS is different because ... um ...
We interrupt this agitprop for some cold, harsh reality. The RTA plan mandates that the Improved Grant Road will have six lanes, period. And despite all the design bells and whistles that will be worked out during the next five or six years (apparently Context means Solutions take a lot longer to plan), this six-lane mandate will have unavoidable consequences. Foremost among these is that it requires a 120-foot- wide right of way, while the current width of Grant Road is a mere 80-90 feet.
If you're as familiar with Grant Road and the rules of eminent domain as I am, you know that this will cause the destruction of numerous structures along its path. The sad part is that the small shops and homes lining Grant Road give it a funky character that prevents it from looking like every other strip-malled avenue in this overly paved and patterned country. Sure as tumbleweeds fill a vacant lot, corporate chain stores will colonize the disturbed landscape in the bulldozer's wake.
But I guess that particular part of the Context must not be so important, so I scoured the Web site for more. How about the national nightmare of petroleum-driven warfare? Not a word. Peak oil? Nary a whisper. Catastrophic climate change? Nope. Oil and car companies are starting to discuss global warming openly, yet it fails to appear in the sacred Context. RTA's stone tablets say six lanes, and six lanes, there shall be.
Frustration rising, I went to the frequently asked questions in search of something more Sensitive. "What will it mean for bus service?" The carefully worded answer crows that this plan will "provide a good opportunity to upgrade bus transit facilities and prepare for future transit enhancements." Hmm. If the history of our car culture is any indication, you can bet your half-cent that this opportunity will be wasted, and the future will hold no such enhancements. "Will I still have access to my home or business?" The Orwellian response: "Property acquisition will be required for roadway improvements, and some areas will be designated for redevelopment and revitalization." In other words, access won't be an issue, because your area will likely be devitalized! Better buy stock in Walgreens and sign up with the apartment hunters.
Finally, this fun FAQ: "Won't it bring more noise and traffic?" Another Orwellian doozy: "The thoughtful reorganization of Grant Road using the latest proven techniques in traffic management and mitigation to minimize negative impacts of noise and traffic is a major goal of Context Sensitive Solutions and the Grant Road project."
Can you pardon me if I don't believe this goal, or any of the other bullshit I read on this Web site? An honest answer would read, "More lanes equal more cars. Period."
Considering that the RTA Solution is to encourage more traffic (which is not surprising, considering the cement heads who paid for the campaign), I was pretty grumpy by the time I got around to inputting. My less-than-polite comments in the survey concluded that, in the hollow Context of this not-so-Sensitive Solution, it is "a crime against the public interest to continue to let the demands of automobiles outweigh the needs of the human and natural environment, not to mention common sense."