I admit, I am sounding a bit one-note with my little study of Shady Oak Road. But it's an expensive project that my elected officials are spending my money on. It's one that should be approached with the viewpoint of "How much bang can we get for our public bucks?", not just "How can we move the most cars as fast as possible?". There's just not enough financial benefit in moving cars to even come close to covering the cost of the project, let alone adding value to the city that will allow us to maintain what infrastructure we have, provide services for our residents, and make improvements that will make Hopkins a more desirable place to live.
In this last post, I wanted to look at the project in photos. Which of the photos better represents a pro-business, smart-growth government investment that will get the most return out of the taxpayer money that is spent?
Exhibit A has:
- Four lanes of roadway
- A wide median/ turn lane
- A barely used sidewalk close by speeding traffic
- Cars that go by too fast for drivers to notice what businesses are there
- Businesses need parking lots, taking up space that could be used for larger buildings/more revenue-generating space
- Roadway is designed to get cars through the area as efficient as possible... Get them to go past as fast as we can allow them... Customers bypass the area and spend their money elsewhere
- Neighbors across the street had to be demolished, reducing the tax base in a small city with no space to grow
Exhibit B has:
- Two lanes, only half as much to pave
- A sidewalk where pedestrians feel safe
- Slower traffic in which drivers can see what businesses and services are around more easily
- With more pedestrian traffic bringing in customers, less space is needed for parking cars and buildings can take up more of their lots (more revenue generating space)
- Dense, higher value development on both sides of road means more property taxes contributing to the city budget
- Road is designed to bring customers to the stores, not to encourage them to bypass the area
The current plan for the reconstruction of Shady Oak Road is more like "Exhibit A". We have sufficient high capacity north-south routes in the area, and decimating the west end of Hopkins just so drivers have yet another way to bypass the city is not a smart investment. I say we pull for "Exhibit B", a smart investment that sets up businesses to flourish in a time when we need to make the most out of all our infrastructure investments. We should not pay for something that encourages customers to just keep driving past.
This article is also posted at Matthew Kilanowski's personal blog, King's Corner.