Letter: Consider future of cars in overpass debate

December 16, 2011
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The public discussion of the surface street versus the new bridge options for the post-Casey Overpass plan has been rich and thoughtful. Such an important transportation corridor and intersection deserves careful deliberation. I am also impressed with the civility of the debate. Those who favor the no-bridge plan and those who prefer a plan with a smaller, narrower new bridge have all made reasonable and important points. If the designers’ projections are well-founded (a topic of debate at the moment), I prefer the surface plan because it I am hoping to see more human scale and a landscape that is united and inviting to people.

However, what has struck me since attending the Nov. 21 hearing on this topic is how little discussion or speculation has occurred over the possibility that the number and type of cars that will travel through this intersection in 25 years may be very different.  Concerns about how many cars will wind up in the neighborhood without a through-traffic bridge, or how much more (presumably exhaust) pollution will linger with more cars at ground level, assume that in future years there will be the same number of or more cars, and that cars will remain as polluting as they are today. That is a frightening scenario!

How can this be, in progressive-thinking neighborhoods like Jamaica Plain? Given the grim realities of global climate change (the effects of which are already locally evident) and the threat to the health of young and old that the obesity and overweight epidemic already poses, we simply cannot afford to let our current car and fossil fuel culture remain. It is up to every one of us—including but not just transportation planners—to make sure that our automobile use declines, that autos of the future will not be reliant on fossil fuels, and that many more people will walk, bike or take public transit much more often. As someone at the hearing put it, “We will get whatever it is that we build for.”

We cannot wait for national or international leaders to make this happen. As with so many radical changes, these changes will come from grassroots and happen at the neighborhood, city and state level. We must commit to this in Jamaica Plain. To that end, there is a network forming for us to work together to make this happen. It is called JP Net. Please join and let us all work together to create the future we want for our neighborhoods. For information go to jptransition.org.

Terry Mason, Jamaica Plain

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