Paved with Good Intentions?

Last night at St. Lawrence College’s mayoral All-Candidates’ Meeting, the hottest topic was the proposed extension to the airport runway. Some candidates seemed to think “if we build it, they will come.” They, in this case, being multiple airlines. Whatever the possible benefits of upgrading our airport, we don’t know if airlines will agree that Kingston actually has the market to attract them — or make them stay. Still, most candidates (with the exception of Slomka and Downes) said they’d put the $18 million down.

While I would love Kingston to have better air access, I can perfectly well imagine spending the money and ending up exactly where we are now.

The Wellington Street Extension is a similar problem. We could put the $35 million down, and then find that either

a) there isn’t that much traffic, partly because money never comes through for the third crossing; or

b) there is a lot of traffic, but other than speeding up some people’s commute by a few minutes, the benefit isn’t clear — given downsides such as facilitating sprawl, causing more parking problems downtown, and reducing access to and preservation of a waterway and waterfront.

Either way we might find ourselves wondering why we spent the money.

Last week on this blog, Mike Cole-Hamilton argued that more traffic and transportation needs studies have to be done. In yesterday’s post reprinted from the Whig, Carl Holmberg suggested some cheaper and he says more effective traffic solutions for the east side of the river. We’ll post some other alternatives coming up.

Why would we spend this money without being sure the bridge will really come through, and/or looking into alternatives?

We certainly could find other ways to spend $35 million. For example, at $600,000 each you could buy 58 buses. That is far more than needed, so how about we buy 40 buses (hybrid of course which pay for themselves over 20 years with fuel savings over conventional), and then put the other $11 million toward providing free transit. Or, we could put $11 million into other projects.

Bryan Paterson says that the cost of the WSE will be covered by “development charges.” However, we do not have $35 million just waiting in an account. Even if we did, city staff has confirmed that this money isn’t attached to any particular project. It could indeed be used for other needed infrastructure: not only other roads, but water, sewer, parks, libraries, fire equipment, buses, etc.

Let’s be reasonable, people. Pavement is not the only infrastructure we need around here.

— Laura Murray

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