Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Maine Turnpike Authority resents your legs.

The Maine Turnpike Authority (MTA) is trying to gain approval for a new headquarters building at the junction of outer Congress St. and the Jetport Connector Road. In the process, they're trying to weasel out of the City requirement that they build sidewalks around the property:
"The Jetport and [sic] Connector Road were [sic] constructed by mutual agreement between the MTA and the City to be without... sidewalks for pedestrians... For safety and efficiency reasons it was therefore agreed that pedestrian use of this area would not be encouraged."
- MTA Request for Reconsideration to the Portland Planning Board, May 17
If it had a sidewalk, the Jetport Connector Road would offer an easily walkable 1/2 mile connection to the nearest bus stop on Western Avenue (on existing sidewalks, it's a less realistic 3/4 mile walk). But at a recent Planning Board meeting, Turnpike Authority officials and transportation engineers made it clear that they had no clue where the nearest bus routes or stops were.

Additionally, the new headquarters building would be surrounded by a four or five acres of parking lots, and they plan to build 50 more parking spaces than are required by Portland's suburban office-park zoning codes. Located in the headwaters of Maine's most polluted watershed (Clarks Pond/Long Creek), these parking lots will soon be sending more oil-soaked runoff downstream towards the Maine Mall.

A cynic would find this only natural - pedestrians, transit riders, and petro-poisoned waterfowl don't pay the tolls that fatten the Authority's political-patronage salaries. But this is an agency that is supposedly governed by a law that requires a focus on "other transportation modes" and "energy-efficient forms of transportation," so its employees' complete ignorance of bus routes is rather striking. And considering the Authority's multi-million dollar annual budget, its strident refusal to build a few yards of sidewalk around its new offices seems as petty as it is shortsighted.

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