Thursday, March 16, 2006

PD spins accident story to push for trains and planes

Yesterday’s front page picture story headline was, “101 shut again: 12-car pileup near Cloverdale points up vulnerability of area’s main road”. (Press Democrat, 3/15/06) A northbound driver lost control of his SUV in heavy hail and rain, crossed the divider, and hit a southbound van, resulting in minor injuries to the other driver.

The second half of the story was about the traffic accident. The first half was mostly propaganda.

Randi Rossman’s story began, “Highway 101's brittle status as regional lifeline took another blow Tuesday when a 12-car accident south of Cloverdale closed southbound lanes.

It was the third time in six days that the North Bay's main artery has been crippled and was further evidence to some of the vulnerability of a transportation system built on a single main option. There is no train or scheduled airline service.

Cloverdale Mayor Bob Jehn, and Sonoma County Supervisor Paul Kelley, delivered the message:

Bob Jehn, chairman of the Sonoma County Transportation Authority and Cloverdale's mayor, said the week's tragedies and mishaps point again to the need for rail service.

’It's the main corridor and for some people the only road that they take to get anywhere,’ Jehn said. ‘To have an alternative such as rail that parallels the corridor, it's just all that more important to have that alternative and have it now.’

County Supervisor Paul Kelley, a member of the Transit Authority, said Tuesday's incident ‘shows again why we need to widen the highway and bring the highway into the 21st century.’”

Insurance man/politician Bob Jehn chairs the County’s Transportation Authority this year. Last year he chaired the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) board of directors.

Scheduled airline service wouldn’t have much effect on people who drive too fast in bad weather; and it’s hard to say whether building the SMART railway, and widening Highway 101 all the way to Cloverdale, would make the freeway safer.

But the story was about growth, not traffic safety. The proposed SMART railway would carry commuters between Larkspur in Marin, and Mayor Jehn’s fast-growing Cloverdale. A commute train and a wider freeway would certainly encourage and support much more urban growth in north Sonoma County.

The PD story had one pertinent quote about that: “Caltrans spokesman Jeff Weiss said the highway has served its purpose well for many years but just can't keep up with the area's growth.”

The obvious solution is less growth.


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