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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of March 19 - 25, 2003

Opinion Columns

It’s up to each of
us to resolve transportation issues

Guest opinion by CHRISTOPHER SIMMS

Christopher Simms is director of Outreach and Development for Blaine County Citizens for Smart Growth.

What will motivate each of us to make a personal commitment toward solving our transportation challenges? In the Wood River Valley we value personal freedom and commitment, quality of life, and the pursuit of happiness. Our economic engine, tourism, is based on the valley’s abundant natural qualities and friendly, vibrant communities. Yet we are beginning to experience the effects of growth that have decreased the quality of life in other areas, such as traffic congestion, polluted air and water, and the wildlife-human conflicts that ultimately lead to wildlife loss.

Many residents of the Wood River Valley have recognized the hallmark urban problem of traffic congestion and reached for the obvious and most convenient solution: highway improvements. While a wider highway will alleviate one symptom of our transportation challenge, we know from the experiences of other communities nationwide that road widening alone does not solve traffic jams, except for the first few months following their completion. After a decade of experience, it is now commonly accepted in transportation planning agencies that road building alone does not solve traffic congestion; it only stimulates drivers to commute from farther places.

Already a great deal of public energy, political will, and public expenditure has been invested in an attempt to solve our local transportation challenges. These efforts have produced the state and federal Timmerman to Ketchum Highway 75 NEPA process, the Blaine County Public Transportation Feasibility Study, and the City of Ketchum’s Multi-Model Transportation System Plan and their 2001 statement of a transportation improvement goal, embodied in Resolution 772. Every one of these documents concludes and recommends more than highway widening. These documents support exactly what we know: meeting our transportation challenge requires a battery of complimentary strategies.

Unfortunately, while we have these studies, resolutions and plans in hand, not many of our citizens or elected officials have taken their message to heart which is, again, that highway improvements are but a small part of a larger solution, which requires the implementation of multiple strategies. These strategies also include commuter buses, pedestrian-friendly towns and neighborhoods, paid parking in the city cores, car pooling, bicycling, telecommuting, and flexible and/or staggered work hours.

What would a comprehensive solution to our transportation challenge look like? We would see both bottom-up and top-down efforts in which a) each individual makes a small change and b) our elected officials contribute their support to the solution.

The bottom-up effort would include a challenge to the dogma that says, "The best way to get from Point A to Point B is to drive alone in my car." It would include each of us taking daily responsibility for making a difference by combining our errands, taking the Peak Bus, car pooling with a coworker, and working one day a week from home (wouldn’t that be great, anyway.) And it also would include personally telling our elected officials that we support a comprehensive solution to our transportation challenge, one that includes complimentary strategies in addition to "the obvious solution," more macadam.

The top-down effort would include the active support of these elected officials for a number of "transportation complimentary strategies" because these strategies have worked in other areas, because local constituencies support them, and because they would contribute to the overall goal of preserving our quality of life. Our elected officials would support high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes during heavy commuting hours, the Peak Bus, and Wood River Rideshare’s efforts toward facilitating car pooling, working with local employers to reduce commuter congestion, and toward promoting walking and bicycling.

Especially in these uncertain times, it is important to exercise our personal freedoms. Perhaps the most important responsibility of having personal freedom is our participation in the process and being part of the solution.


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