Under current city plans approved 11 years ago, a Prado Road cross-town truck- route extension would dead end at Broad Street, northwest of the Damon-Garcia Recreation Fields.
Measure H proponents are challenging that terminus location, claiming children who play on fields downwind of exhaust fumes from trucks approaching or waiting to turn onto Broad Street could suffer such long-term health effects as asthma from continued exposure (Viewpoint, in The Tribune, Sept. 16). Both city hall and The Tribune (Sept. 19) are circling the wagons against Measure H, and a well-financed “Vote No on Measure H” committee has amassed a horde of former officials, organizations, businesses, and youth sports advocates in opposition to it.
Hyperbole is abundant in both camps. The Vote No on Measure H side maintains: “Measure H has hidden public costs that will kill our most important quality-of-life plans” (noonmeasureh.com). That overkill is matched by proponents’ promises that Measure H is a “golden opportunity” that “will retain land for healthy recreation, protect children’s safety, initiate better traffic solutions, and increase tourism, business, and property values” and “… our city’s charm and the quality of life citizens value most will be preserved” (Viewpoint, The Tribune, Sept. 16).
From my temporary perch here in Maine, it’s quite a stretch to imagine a four-acre piece of land could become so controversial and citizens on either side might gain such grand benefits from the same land that Measure H advocates would save as open space but opponents would rather preserve under the right-of-way for the Prado Road-Broad Street terminus! Is there more here than meets the eye?
Measure H advocates (Viewpoint, The Tribune, Sept. 16) claim there was “no mention of a road” when the original city bond in 1999 funded 23.5 acres of Damon-Garcia property “for recreation.” At this distance, that seems to be the proponents’ weakest argument, and I would agree with The Tribune that other issues are of greater import (but we differ on which!).
The Tribune editorial says this eventual four-lane road “will be buffered” from the playing fields “by fencing, trees, and an embankment,” but proponents would ask whether such barriers actually will prevent exhaust-bearing air currents from drifting onto the playing fields.
The Tribune’s hyperbole claims Prado Road’s extension “will prevent gridlock in the southern end of the city” and “not having another through street would also pose a threat to public safety.” Its writer, however, doesn’t consider any alternative potential cross-town linkages, e.g., Santa Fe Road to Buckley Road, or enlarging Tank Farm Road to four lanes. The Tribune is silent about city policy recklessness in still accommodating fossil-fueled vehicles and expanding our dependence on foreign oil.
Both The Tribune and the Vote No on Measure H committee call out Measure H proponents for “ballot-box planning.” But, if a City Council ignores petitioner’s claims, where else can proponents “plan” if not at the ballot box?
Neither the editorial nor the No on Measure H website provides real answers to the question: Is the Prado Road extension to Broad Street really necessary? If it is, then why must it be four lanes instead of two? Where are the bicycle or pedestrian lanes mentioned? California cities elsewhere—Lincoln, Davis, and Woodland, for example—already have or are planning unique cross-town paved routes, “E-ways” (electric vehicle pathways) for low-speed vehicles (LSVs) and neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs), which are street-legal and have a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour. Such vehicles can be driven on any street with a speed limit of 35 mph or slower. The cross-town Prado Road extension is likely to be rated at 40 or more mph and it will be unusable by LSV and NEV owners (like me).
Councilmember John Ashbaugh stated in e-mail correspondence to proponents, “the decision that was made in 2001 to align the Prado Rd. ROW [right of way] on the northern alignment was debatable at that time—but it is debatable no longer. It is a fact of life. The hand of history writes, and having written, moves on (Omar Khayam).”
But history reflects values of the past! Isn’t it time for new values that reflect our need to reduce carbon footprints associated with fossil fuel use? Instead of building another high-carbon-footprint, four-lane highway through our city, shouldn’t we plan and build sustainable transportation systems that cost less economically and ecologically?
Couldn’t we, for example, gradually transition Tank Farm Road away from passenger-car usage into a road dedicated only to truck, bus, and emergency vehicle traffic, while simultaneously extending Prado Road as a narrower, less costly, energy-efficient, cross-town, two-lane road and an E-way for electric vehicles, bicycles, scooters, skateboarders, and even pedestrians? Why not strive to get everyone out of the path of truck exhaust fumes?
When my absentee ballot arrives, I will vote yes on Measure H because it offers the potential for rethinking our priorities and provides a glimmer of hope toward a greener future. ∆
Richard J. Krejsa, a retired Cal Poly professor, is a San Luis Obispo resident who spends summer months on a farm in Durham, Maine. Send comments via the opinion editor at [email protected].