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Good traffic, bad traffic

Jack Balshaw 6/18/2003


As with many things, traffic can be considered good or bad depending on how it's perceived. Good traffic is any traffic associated with a project I support. Bad traffic is any traffic associated with a project you support. And vice versa.

Doesn't this seem to fit the way projects are viewed in Petaluma? Not only their traffic impact, but also whether a project is good for Petaluma or bad. Supporters, as the old song said, "accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative". Opponents do the opposite.

Let's focus on some local projects and traffic.

Opponents of expansion of the factory outlet stores are sure this will create major traffic problems and also hurt the downtown. They seem to forget that when the factory outlet was originally proposed, the prediction was of traffic congestion on Payran St from customers exiting 101 at Washington and using Payran as the southern access point. Petaluma Blvd North was also supposed to be congested by customers from Santa Rosa exiting at Old Redwood Highway interchange.

The period since the Factory Outlet was built has also been one of the better times for downtown. What some thought would be bad has turned out to be pretty good.

On the other hand, these same people seem to assume that construction of 3 million square feet of retail, commercial and industrial buildings and residences for up to 6000 people in the Central Petaluma Specific Plan area won't cause any traffic that can't be handled. They casually assume that because this new "smart planning" is something they approve of, traffic will all be calm and beneficial.

They also assume that the 3 million square feet of commercial development won't attract business away from merchants in Old Town Petaluma. How can a tenth of that development at the Factory Outlet be deadly to downtown and ten times as much right across the river not be?

How about the proposal for development of both Kenilworth and the fairgrounds? Only good traffic will be added to Washington St from the development of almost 80 acres, so they say. (By the way, our City Council is bidding for the Kenilworth site with no idea of what to do with it and with no public input.) Now, I think 80 acres of development will generate bad traffic and bring gridlock to Washington St and the Washington / McDowell intersection. Their good traffic, my bad traffic, same cars but differing perceptions.

Let's consider traffic from the possible casino at Lakeville and Rt. 37. Bad, because it will cause bad traffic to come to Sonoma County according to casino opponents. How about good traffic because it will result in less people from the Bay Area driving to the Indian casinos north of Santa Rosa. Maybe good traffic also because it will save hundreds of thousands of 350 to 400 mile round trips from the Bay Area to Reno every year. Think of all the pollution that will eliminate.

Some of the casino's bad traffic that will continue on north to tour Sonoma County will be seen as good traffic by the tourist industry and maybe even by merchants in our upscale and upsized downtown. Then people will lament the loss of our "small town" feeling, but you can't win them all.

By now you get the idea. Projects, development, growth can be good or bad depending on how it affects each of us individually. Just because a neighbor doesn't like a project doesn't mean I should automatically do so too.


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