Below is a letter to the editor that I sent to the N&O following their story on I-40 congestion that failed to address any alternative transportation options. They responded that they would consider publishing it if I cut down the length in half. Three reasons that I do not want to do this: 1) I did not spend much time at all on it and do not want to put it in print if I horribly missed something; 2) I do not think that I could that many cuts and still have a good piece; and 3) I can put it up here and probably have the same number of people actually read it (and I like you guys better). But go ahead and try to edit it down if you want, or even use the ideas to write your own LTE.
The News & Observer gave front page prominence to a story on the dangers and congestion of I-40 through the Triangle. The attention on our area's traffic problems was sorely needed, but the paper completely ignored solutions to the problems of I-40. There was a tiny mention of the possibility of more lanes through the area but nothing on a real long term solution that allows resident to be able to get from their jobs to their homes without sitting in traffic.
This lack of planning for a solution has helped create the mess that we are in now. The Triangle has never attempted to seriously control growth or provide alternatives to using the area's highways. In this era of high gas prices and global warming, the area needs to seriously address their transportation needs. What is needed is not a couple of more lanes; the solution will need to be more comprehensive.
In order to get a handle on the traffic problem, the area needs to realize what other cities have as they have grown: the solution to traffic is not more roads but alternatives to using roads and control of sprawl. These alternatives fall into essentially two varieties: the walking and biking option that requires that development be dense enough that housing and workplaces are close together, and the rail option that requires less density (but still some density around stations). The addition of these alternative transportation means also have other quality of life benefits, such as not needing to sit in hours of anxiety creating traffic.
The snub of alternative transportation is especially concerning due to the fact that the TTA is still attempting to gain traction for its attempt to open a Regional Rail Line that would run from Durham through RTP to Raleigh. The line would do a great deal to draw cars off of I-40.
The negative responses to the Regional Rail Line invariably center around the fact that people do not think that the Triangle is large enough or metropolitan enough for a rail system. But to me these naysayers seem a lot like the people who declared with confidence in the 1960's that the area did not need an interstate: too shortsighted and ignoring the transportation reality of a growing area. Let us hope that the planning directors do not ignore the need for alternative transportation the way that the N&O did on Sunday.