There has been a national discussion on the merits of stimulus funding. In response, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has traveled among transportation projects and noted how they’ve benefited from stimulus funding.
Locally, the Oakland Press has been covering public opposition to the Clinton River Trail bridge in Pontiac. Unfortunately the newspaper seems more interested in being a soapbox for the uninformed.
“They could have awarded that $2 million as a tax credit for a developer,” he said, maybe enticing a department store to take over the massive empty space. “That would create permanent jobs.”
No, they couldn’t. This is federal transportation dollars with very specific strings attached. To think MDOT could convert this to a tax credit for a Wallmart is asinine. It’s media stories such as this that help give life to these unrealistic opinions — not once, but twice.
(In fact in their first article, the Oakland Press incorrectly reported that there is no trail on the east side of the bridge. We spoke with an attendee at Arts, Beats, and Eats who called this the bridge to nowhere, an impression that they could have gotten from reading this initial article.)
“The trail could have gone straight along sidewalks on the south side of Orchard Lake Road,” she said, “and (stimulus) money could have improved the aesthetics on the Orchard Lake Road corridor and people would still have had a bike trail.”
No, it couldn’t. This transportation stimulus funding was for “shovel ready” projects. Neither of those mentioned were even planned. Besides, it would be against best practices and the national design guidelines to put cyclists on a sidewalk because it’s unsafe.
“Why didn’t stimulus money go toward cutting dead trees?”
Apparently the dead tree cutting lobby in DC just ain’t what it used to be. They didn’t bring home the bacon.
Dear Oakland Press, If you want to publish articles about whether economic stimulus funding is philosophically good or bad, that’s fine. But, don’t hold the Clinton River Trail bridge hostage by publishing unworkable, unrealistic, if not impossible alternatives without letting your readers know why these aren’t alternatives at all. The true alternative to the bridge is for MDOT to have spent this money on a non-motorized transportation somewhere else.
Is it really about race?
There was significant opposition to the Clinton River Trail in Sylvan Lake when it was first proposed.
From what we saw first hand, that opposition was largely based on race. Sylvan Lake had closed roads and created barriers between itself and their pre-dominantly black Pontiac neighbors to the east. The trail threatened to create a non-motorized path that would connect those two communities.
At one Sylvan Lake city council meeting a resident said “those people” would use the trail to break into their garage and steal their snowblower.
A Pontiac resident smartly responded by asking the question: Why would anyone walk more than a mile, take your snowblower, then push it another mile back? Why wouldn’t they just drive?
And now that the Clinton River Trail bridge is being built — the final connection between these two communities — we can’t help but wonder if this race issue is at least partially to blame to fueling this discussion.
Of course, we’re not counting on the local media to look into it.