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Let's fix 101 once and for all

Jack Balshaw 4/9/2003


The problem with 101 is extremely simple, too many people use it.

The solution is just as simple, decrease the number of people using 101.

Ah, but there's the rub you say. How do we reduce the number of people using 101? This really isn't difficult either.

The whole solution is just to locate people closer to their jobs. Now let me explain how to do this with little or no difficulty. It will take time to accomplish this, but so will all other solutions.

It's not likely people will take to the Balshaw Solution and sell their homes to buy one nearer to work. And it's not likely businesses will analyze their employees' home addresses and relocate nearer to most employees. But, suppose, over time, employers always filled any vacant jobs with those qualified applicants who lived closest to the place of employment?

Under existing practices, employers pick who they think is the MOST qualified applicant to fill a job and it's that applicant's problem to get to work. But, let's be real about this MOST qualified worker. When all the employment applications have been reviewed and rated, no one can pick with certainty the MOST qualified of the top three to five applicants. Why not then always select the one who lives closest to the job?

Just suppose, over time - five to ten years - this was done. Wouldn't it be a lot more likely that fewer people would be commuting long distances between our major employment centers?

I know this seems like a strange concept, but what we've been doing for the last twenty years hasn't solved the problem. Isn't it time to try something different? And the segments of incremental widening we're doing now won't eliminate the problem either. By the time it's done, people will be complaining about the traffic on the new three lane sections. Let's try something entirely new.

The challenge here should be to the business community, via the Chambers of Commerce. It seems they're always the ones complaining about the problem, but also the ones who never seem to be able to sell a solution to the taxpayers.

The business solution has always been to have the county's taxpayers pay for widening 101 without any costs to the businesses. This is the, "We've got a great idea, you pay for it" solution. Unfortunately, the public is too smart to agree. This then puts the business community in the position to say, " If the public won't pay to fix 101, then there's nothing we can do about it". They then go off and grumble but don't have to do anything.

A point of information. Every auto trip, other than to visit a friend, goes to or from a business. Therefore, just about every auto on the road is benefiting a business. The occupants of these cars are employees, customers, clients, service personnel, etc. doing something or going somewhere that helps a business make a profit.

Can't business help us a tiny little bit? It literally wouldn't cost them a penny. The new, local employee selected would get the same pay as anyone else selected would have received. If the Chambers and business community promoted this idea, traffic could be reduced over time as worker turnover took place.

If this were tied in with a willingness to allow telecommuting where it was appropriate (even one day a week) and flextime plus a serious try at carpooling, each increment would be part of a large net result. Why is it so difficult to get businesses, which brag about their ability to innovate and make bold moves relative to their core business, to do anything new or different when simple administrative choice is involved?

In this area, business is as stuck in the past as it accuses government of being. Maybe business isn't any more innovative than government.

Environmental leaders, and there must be a few who are influential in business, should back this idea. After all, their goal is to reduce the number of workers traveling long distances by auto.


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