Friday, January 20, 2012

Wanna do something about Climate Change in Rochester, NY? (Hint: bike.)


If you care about increasing Active Transportation in the Rochester, NY region you can still make comment on this major road construction project by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) until January 30th, 2012. Check this out:

Access 390: Interchange 16 “This project will evaluate the current and future operational and safety needs of the I-390 Interchange 16 (Routes 15 and 15A). Potential design solutions will be developed to increase safety, reduced congestion and accommodate planned future growth and development. To submit comments, please go to the Contact Us page.” NYSDOT Home

Among all the engineering feats the DOT will accomplish, they will determine the social, economic, and environmental effects of this project. One of the environmental effects of this project, and any road project for that matter, will be increasing vehicular traffic that will emit more greenhouse gases (GHG). One of the ways to reduce the bad environmental effects of a great big road and bridge project is to implement active transportation. Active transportation is walking and wheel-chairing and bicycling and even skateboarding (if that’s your thing) to get to those short distances—which are the trips most folks take with their cars. But active transportation doesn’t put greenhouse gases into our atmosphere, so when you walk or bike instead of driving your car, you aren’t contributing to Climate Change.

The other evening I attended the New York State Department of Transportation’s public meeting in Rochester to find out about the complicated Access 390: Interchange 16 project—as it includes a lot of those engineering details that thrill the experts and leaves us common folks bewildered. In short, along the route, parallel to this Byzantine project on 390 are arterials, highways, where the DOT could use some of its left-over asphalt and put in bike lanes—like say on a stretch of East River Road. (I’m told, there is always asphalt left over from a big road job.)

This idea is that instead of getting in your car to get to those destinations that serve vehicles all too well, you could also do that route on bicycle. Clean air, a healthier lifestyle, less Climate Change, what’s not to like? Including routes for bicycles and other active transportation when big construction projects go on is the idea behind Complete Streets:

Complete Streets “Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation planners and engineers consistently design and operate the entire roadway with all users in mind - including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.”

I talked with a DOT representative (don’t ask me names, I’m so bad at that) and he assured me that the DOT always considers and always has considered the concepts behind Complete Streets. Their position is that if they can do it they will help implement assess for Active Transportation. My argument is that with the Complete Streets, now the law in NYS, the DOT must listen and respond to requests to tailor our roads for walkers and bicyclist when constructing and re-constructing an existing road. The operative word here is ‘must’. We are sure those great folks over at the DOT want to help us move along without pollution and warming up the planet, but we want to trust and verify.

So, thinking about your planet and Climate Change and how incredibly energy intensive (transportation accounts for 27% of GHG) getting around can be, why not contact the DOT (go here to do that by January 30th and let them know you care about Complete Streets—not just gas-guzzlers.

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