The always trenchant Jim Allen suggested at the traffic access public hearing Wednesday that the consultants from SRF Associates had engaged in “magical thinking” in putting their plan together. That criticism is entirely too kind.
A more accurate conclusion would be that the consultants had been pressured by our current town leadership to produce a political snow job. The resulting plan is based on obviously cooked traffic numbers that are designed to minimize the future congestion that we will face on Rt. 20A if the current pace of commercial growth in the corridor continues.
At this point, we already have proposed projects under consideration that would add over 350,000 square feet of commercial development to the area in the next few years. This includes about 200,000 for phase one of the Newman PDD, 90,00o of refurbished space re-opened at the old Wal-Mart, an Applebees restaurant and at least three new strip malls totaling over 50,000 square feet. And this is just the beginning!
The goal of the Kennison administration has been to tell people that we can have a consumer paradise on Rt. 20A without experiencing major traffic problems or damage to our community character. If you believe that I have a bridge in Brooklyn that I want to sell you!
A key part of the PR plan is to get an expert from out of town to testify that everything is going to be alright. Enter Steve Ferranti. I believe Mr Ferranti started out to do an honest job two years ago when he reported that Rt. 20A traffic was growing at an annual rate of 5 per cent and would soon exceed its design capacity.
Unfortunately that inconvenient truth ran smack into the town’s commitment to Newman Development to get a new Big Box built ASAP. The result was that Steve was sent off to wander in the wilderness for a few years. In the meantime, just in case he didn’t get the point, the town fired and publicly trashed another consultant who dared to deliver a proposed master plan that wasn’t sufficiently pro-sprawl.
Having learned his lesson, Steve was allowed to fufill his contract so long as he danced to the town’s tune on the traffic numbers. In the latest draft, instead of the historical 5 per cent growth rate we have seen for traffic on Rt. 20A over the last 20 years, SRF suggested that for the next 20 years the growth would only be half that.
We’re running out of bridges to sell!