SURELY YOU didn’t need a new study to tell you traffic is frustratingly dense from Blackman Street to the Wyoming Valley mall on state Route 309. If you’ve driven it anytime other than, say, 3 a.m., the problem was obvious.
The road is a textbook example of what happens when business growth outpaces urban planning: An old, narrow artery attracted numerous restaurants, stores and entrepeneurs, prompting endless left turns amid relentless through traffic.
So, when a Washington, D.C.-based group declared that stretch the second most-congested corridor in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area, the reaction from anyone who has traveled the road (or more likely looked for ways to avoid traveling it) was probably “well, duh.”
As reported in a 1A story in Friday’s Times Leader, the reasearch group TRIP estimated travel throught that corrider during rush hour costs the average driver 125 hours, 54 extra gallons of gas and $2,301 every year.
The group’s push to highlight the need for more spending on upgrades, infrastructure and traffic signalization has merit. There’s little doubt that the noted stretch of 309 in Wilkes-Barre Township would benefit from extra lanes and some well-placed and well-timed traffic lights.
But catering to cars can’t be the only response to such conundrums. Traffic trouble spots also benefit through thoughtful planning for alternative transportation. Bicycle and pedestrian traffic should be fostered where possible; well designed public transportation services can play an important part.
The more difficult solution is also the most meaningful: A broad shift in the municipal mindset that allows commercial development to trump everything. The understandable need for increased tax revenues routinely prompts government bigwigs and civic leaders to woo and embrace business wherever there may be room in a sort of “grow first and ask questions later” approach.
Growth is fine. But thoughtless growth fosters the kind of congestion to which TRIP is pointing, which in turn creates the need for greater spending on traffic solutions that shouldn’t have been required in the first place.