Thursday, June 11, 2009

TDOT: The Dept. Of Concrete Is Baaack!

I’m going to step away from my regularly scheduled programming for a moment to get all hyper-local and voice my disdain for the TN Dept. of Transportation’s Hillsboro Pike “fix.” I say “fix” because this project seems designed solely to fix TDOT’s reputation and make a lot of noises about being responsive to business owners in Green Hills, while pissing off the people who actually live here: namely, people like me.

Yes, Hillsboro Pike, which happens to be a state highway, is a major clusterfuck, but I don’t see how adding a center turn lane south of Woodmont is going to solve anything. For one thing, there already exists a center turn lane--and traffic lights!--through the most congested part, which is from the Starbucks strip mall, past the Green Hills Mall, all the way down to the Hill Center. In short, the busy retail areas and Hillsboro High School, which is the destination of most of this traffic.

I live in this neighborhood and I have to say, rare is the time I’m stuck behind some clueless left-turner. The problem is simply too much traffic for too little road. Exacerbating this problem is commercial vehicle traffic like delivery trucks traveling in peak hours, and hundreds of Hillsboro High School students who all leave campus at the same time. Adding center turn lanes won’t do diddly to solve those problems because for one thing, as I already mentioned, we already have center turn lanes!

The most problematic clusterfuck is the double-light intersection on Hillsboro at Glen Echo and Crestmoor which, let me repeat, has a left turn lane but it’s too short to be useful, the lights aren’t timed properly, and the whole thing is a giant mess.

Meanwhile, the proposed “fix” could have a devastating impact on the surrounding residential neighborhoods, since it won’t actually solve the problem but could make it easier for frustrated drivers to turn onto residential streets in an effort to avoid the ever worsening clusterfuck. As if we don’t have a bad enough cut-through problem as it is.

I’m not being a NIMBY here, I’m just saying, I live in this neighborhood and I know what the problems are and what it’s going to take to fix it. TDOT would know it too if they had bothered to ask us, but they didn’t. There wasn’t one neighborhood meeting about it, though there were plenty of meetings for the business community which just figures, doesn’t it? Kinda puts the whole charade into perspective.

I called TDOT and asked how they come up with this cockamamie idea to begin with and was told the name of some consultant (of course) who had worked really hard to come up with a totally awesome plan, though again, they never bothered to speak to all of the constituents in the area, just the business ones. So in other words, the state paid someone a few hundred grand to pull something out of their ass, which they did while chuckling about what a bunch of suckers the folks at TDOT are.

Of course, I suspect TDOT and Metro aren’t interested in fixing any real problems. That would require either 1) widening the road (a hugely expensive and unfeasable solution) and 2) restricting the amount of traffic, by such means as building bike lanes and sidewalks, restricting commercial traffic to certain times of the day, and getting the high school to stagger its schedule so hundreds of kids aren’t all descending on Hillsboro Pike at the same time.

TDOT has already said bike lanes and sidewalks are not gonna happen, which is really too bad since as the new owner of an old bicycle, I’d love to bike to the grocery store but I value my life too much and those soccer moms in their Chevy Subdivisions can’t drive for shit. Seriously people, you know I’m right.

This plan appears to be a bunch of smoke and mirrors to appease the ever-growing chorus of developers, business owners and, yes, residents wondering why the city and state haven't done anything about the traffic mess that is Green Hills. And yes, they are right, it is a mess, it's a horrible mess, and anyone who lives in the neighborhood knows to use the back roads and avoid Hillsboro Pike at all costs because if you don't, good lord you'll regret it. That fact alone has got to strike fear in the hearts of those whose livelihood depends on bringing people into town, not turning them away.

I get that but let me repeat: TDOT's brilliant plan will not solve the problem. All it will do is give the appearance of solving the problem. And maybe that is the point.

The person I spoke to at TDOT said there were “traffic studies” and “accident reports” that verified the need for this center lane (which, did I mention, already exists where the worst of the traffic is!). But when I asked to see a copy she grew vague, said it wasn’t online, didn’t know where there was a copy, in fact, even she hadn’t seen a copy, yada yada.

I’m pretty good at smelling bullshit and I think I was just handed a pile of it.

In the past TDOT has been criticized for basically paving over every perceived problem and guess what, that’s what they seem to be doing here. They’re treating Green Hills like it’s I-40 and it’s not, it’s a mixed neighborhood of residential, retail, and institutional uses. At least one of those constituents was forgotten in this equation.

So TDOT and everyone involved in this waste of taxpayer money, including Mayor Karl Dean, you get a middle finger from Southern Beale today.

Now, back to my regularly scheduled rants against Republicans.