Who Should Decide on the 6/10 Connector?

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As with legalizing marijuana, what to do with the 6/10 connector is a state-level policy debate on which I’m more ambivalent than on matters that consume most of my attention.  In large part, my ambivalence arises from my general feeling that I don’t have enough personal investment in the infrastructure on that side of Providence or, alternately, enough expertise about the relevant questions to make my opinion of much value.  Ultimately, all I could do is offer a statement of principle, and that’s not generally very helpful, irking those whose view clashes with the principle and disappointing those whose view accords with it.

With that lengthy (boulevard-esque) opening disclaimer complete, I will say that my principles harmonize more with those who favor replacing the 6/10 connector highway with an urban boulevard for the reason that transportation engineer Ian Lockwood expresses in Kevin Proft’s recent ecoRI article on the question:

“There comes a point, from a policy perspective, where it makes sense for the community to have regional commuters driving on (the community’s) terms, and not on some kind of long-distance commute terms,” he said.

Nobody’s more invested in that spot on the planet than the people who live and work there and/or own property in the immediate area.  The fact that some suburban commuter’s habits were developed on the assumption that the people in those neighborhoods of Providence had accepted a highway next door once upon a time doesn’t give that commuter a lifetime claim to infrastructure saving him or her 20 minutes (or whatever) per workday.

Look at a map and/or take a drive.  295 isn’t exactly a terrible inconvenience for points north.  Likewise, if the highway-only option for points between the northern and southern tips of 295 is to take 6 to 10 south to Cranston and then head north, that wouldn’t be the end of the world.  People could adjust, particularly over time, as home buyers planning to commute change their habits.

Other than that, though, the whole thing is beyond my expertise.  Whether the people vested in the area around 6/10 connector should expect a boulevard to be non-stop traffic while habits adjust is a question for them to answer, for example.  Who knows but that somebody will have a moment of inspiration for another path that a cut-through highway could traverse.

In a part of the country that expanded ad hoc as the world evolved from foot paths to highways, we can’t mistake the existence of a highway as the necessity for a highway.