The Ithaca Board of Public Works met last night in a non-voting meeting to discuss, among other things, the Six-Point Traffic Plan.
As the lead agency in the City’s plan to open the South Plain Street Bridge to traffic, to build an extension to Taughannock Boulevard, and to widen Spencer Street and portions of Route 13, the board has shuttled between residential and developmental concerns since the Common Council voted to enact the plan.
“The Board of Public Works is trying to deal with this fairly,” said Claudia Jenkins, a member of the board.
John Beach, a member of the board, is also a resident of the southwest part of Ithaca where much of the construction is supposed to take place.
“My role as a resident and [as] a board member is to help the City come to a decision that would have the best possible outcome for the most residents,” Beach said.
Recently, the main issue for local residents has been the increased traffic on South Plain Street, which they believe will undoubtably hit after the bridge opens up.
“A whole lot of people in the neighborhood are against this,” said Eric Lerner, a resident of South Plain Street.
Lerner also wonders about the order in which the City is planning to execute the plan.
“Instead of things that have the least impact on residential neighborhoods, they’re going ahead with the thing that is the easiest to do, which is build a bridge,” he said.
Jenkins feels that the sentiments against the Six-Point Traffic Plan may be detrimental to the City. She explained that increased traffic is essential to development.
“Everyone says, ‘not in my neighborhood, not in my neighborhood.’ Well, then everyone in Ithaca is [in] a neighborhood. But, if you don’t bring in the business, how are you supposed to build a tax base? They didn’t want Wal-Mart, and now Target’s gone, what’s next?” Jenkins said.
“If back in the ’60’s you could have seen the downtown area, you would have [seen that] Cayuga Street and Aurora Street — they were packed. Now there’s no place for us to shop. If you’re trying to buy your son a pair of dress slacks, where are you going to go? So, you take your money to the mall, which is in Lansing. I try to shop local, but they don’t have what I need for my business, or even clothing,” she added.
Jenkins also feels that often people who live in Ithaca temporarily do not realize the impact of their actions.
“We have a lot of transitory people here. How many people do you know who were born and raised here?” she asked. “I’m glad people speak out, but what have you done in the wake?”
Beach agrees with Jenkins on the potential damage of the protests.
“The fact of the matter is that three years ago, [the] Common Council committed to development in the southwest [quadrant of the City], and we as residents have to deal with that. [The Common] Council has a responsibility to take all of the repercutions of that decision into account,” he said. “Other than the environment, traffic was one of the main things the Council had to deal with.”
“Historically, the City has been reacting to traffic problems as opposed to being out in front, or at least parallel,” he added.
Jenkins hopes that the Six-Point Traffic Plan will change that.
“I don’t even know if it’ll be done in my lifetime. It’s going to take years. If I live to see half of it, I’m lucky. But, once it’s up and running, traffic will run very smoothly,” she said.
Archived article by Freda Ready