Gazette Guest Column: “One member ponders best questions for Exit 19 project advisory group”

James Lowenthal is a member of the Exit 19 Project Advisory Committee. This committee will next meet on December 7. The public is invited. See below for details. Today’s Gazette publishes this guest column by Mr. Lowenthal:

One member ponders best questions for Exit 19 project advisory group

What exactly is the problem that the new highway ramps are intended to solve? If the answer is safety, then we need to know in very concrete terms how expanding the highway will improve safety…

Who initiated the project to build new highway ramps in the first place? Was it the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission? MassHighway? The city of Northampton? U.S. Rep. John Olver’s office? There appears to be a lot of opposition to this project and very little genuine public support. Someone needs to claim responsibility if the project is going to move forward…

Other cities (Providence, San Francisco, Portland, Ore. ) are tearing down waterfront highways and reclaiming the land for parks and public spaces. Expanding the Exit 19 interchange would do exactly the opposite: take precious Connecticut River waterfront, some of the country’s richest farmland and historic neighborhoods and pave them over. Is that loss really worth the uncertain gains?

See also:

Notice of 12/7/09 Meeting of the Exit 19 Project Advisory Committee (new time and location)
The meeting will be Monday, December 7, 2009 at 6 PM in the City Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building, located at 212 Main St, Northampton. The municipal building is behind City Hall. Please note that we are meeting at this location for this meeting only as the Community Room at JFK Middle School will be occupied on our selected meeting date.

Interchange 19: A Website Sponsored by Massachusetts Department of Transportation
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation is working on a project to identify and develop improvements to increase mobility in the I-91 Interchange 19 area. This project includes traffic analysis, transit analysis, roadway design, environmental analysis, and a large public outreach effort. This project began in summer 2009 and is expected be completed in summer 2012. The initial study phase of the project involves an assessment of existing conditions and development of recommend solutions to improve mobility. The second phase of the project will involve development and implementation of the recommended solutions.

Letter to the Gazette: “Don’t repeat California’s mistakes with I-91 upgrade” (11/27/09)
[Luke Jaeger:] A recent public information session at JFK Middle School left this Ward 3 resident uneasy. While raw traffic data and technocrat-jargon were in abundant supply, I believe we’re overlooking a larger and more fundamental question – namely, what is the problem we are trying to solve?

Gazette: “In Our Opinion: Highway to future?” (11/21/09)
[Gary] Bua mentioned his company [TransSystems] will take a fresh look at the city’s relationship to the interstate – and that means considering, yes, flyover ramps (think Los Angeles) from westbound Route 9 to I-91 south and north, as well as changes in the current ramps off I-91 – and even a traffic roundabout.

Video: Exit 19 Update from Project Advisory Committee, 11/16/09

Northampton Media: “Highway Planners Present Dog-and-Pony Show on Exit 19; Offer No New Plans” (11/17/09)
When asked by an audience member about the possibility of a “no build” option, Bua said that that would not be out of the question if the data supported the option.

Northampton Redoubt: Interstate 91 Interchange 19 update (2/8/08)

Northampton Office of Planning and Development: I-91/Exit 19 Interchange Reports