Thursday, December 15, 2005

Misspending Priorities And Fixing What Isn't Broke

In the last year, I became a little bit of a pain to some officials at the City Of Portland, when I complained of misspending priorities when a number of streets near my home become so grossly overregulated with "traffic calming" features such as traffic circles and speed bumps that it became so absurd it should have been a main 60 MINUTES investigation feature on misspending by government.

A whole number of streets in SouthEast Portland, Oregon have recent excessive speedbump and traffic circle costruction, that were installed in some misguided effort to supposedly "calm" traffic. Yet there was little real evidence that the streets suffered from either excessive traffic or excessive speeds that required the installation of such an expensive and potentially hazzardous speed bump project. Few residents were given a survey or any opportunity to voice their opinion on this matter before an unwanted speed bump was installed in the front of their home. In reality, a failed candidate for mayor had worked out a lucrative arrangement between the City Of Portland and a private business to sell other city governments speed bumps made from old recycled tires in which the City Of Portland received a percentage "royalty" on each sale. This arrangement more than any real need promoted spending millions of tax dollars to overregulate some SouthEast Portland streets.

But speed bumps and traffic circles are not a good ideal. Instead of a motorist keeping their eyes on the sides of the road looking out for pedestrians, their vision is often distracted away from the sides of the road, looking into the street ahead for each obstacle in the street. Some pedestrians could face increased death or injury from these road distractions as motorists may not see them in time to stop. Oregon also has a pedestrian "right of way" law that requires motorists to stop for pedestrians, who often fail to fail to look for traffic and step right out in front of cars or walk against "walk" signals at corners with such signals. This law creates poor lessons for children who often walk out into traffic expecting cars to suddenly be able to stop for them at any point. Also SouthEast Portland has more bicycle traffic than some cities in Asia seem to have, and these bicyclists often fail to obey street signs such as "stop" signs. In the last year, I recall only two bicyclists obeying "stop" signs that I personally witnessed out of thousands of bikes on the road, far less than a 1% compliance with traffic rules. A motorist in SouthEast Portland is very busy watching for constant things while traveling some streets with excessive traffic "calming" devices, and careless pedestrians and bicyclists to watch. At some point some needless traffic deaths will occur from this excessive burden on motorists, instead of shared responsibility of pedestrians and bicylists to also look out for their own safety as well. This is a recipe for eventual disaster.

Emergency vehicles such as Fire and Ambulance services are sometimes seen practicing their navigation around all these newly constructed traffic "calming" obstacles. While a victim suffers from irrepairable damage or death from a heart attack or stroke, a greatly increased response time from emergency services is squandered away while a victim suffers from severe brain or heart cell death. Spending extra minutes for emergency services to navigate around traffic obstacles created by speed bumps and "traffic calming" circles will create human vegetables as some suffer partial brain death waiting for increased emergency response time. Some will needlessly die. Some will choke to death on food or some object, such as children who put a toy in their mouth, as emergency services speed a few extra minutes navigating around traffic "calming" street obstacles. And while a home burns away from fire, a large fire truck wastes important minutes navigating around the traffic obstacles.

Traffic circles with greenry require maintenance crews to trim greenry, creating hundreds of extra thousands of dollars in yearly needless tax expenses to maintain their appearance. In the meantime, they present a daily accident hazzard unless one is Clark Kent and has xray vision and can see through them for some pedestrian or automobile that is lurking behind them because of their height that blocks normal automobile height level vision of the road ahead.

Another traffic obstacle was not seen seen by a drunk couple one early one morning a while ago. And when they hit the object their car was thrown out of control into a tree and torn in half and the couple instantly. Otherwise the worse that would have happened was either a possible drunken driving ticket if they had encountered a police officer on their way home. Instead the unknown traffic obstacle caused the death for two persons, and the destruction of a neighbor's tree.

Other traffic obstacles in past years involved minimizing traffic accidents. These recent obstacles only increase the possibility of traffic accidents.

A few years ago, a retired couple had problems with motorists that went out of control and hit their home. A motorcyclist was killed when his bike crashed into the living room one time. A safety fence was built to slow any vehicle and prevent these accidents. This at least served a worthwhile purpose.

Speed bumps have been proven to increase vehicle maintenance costs by a full extra 50% by increased wear and damage to automobile parts such as shock absorbers and suspension components such as lower control arms which may crack from increased stress over time. Older tires may suffer from cracked sidewalls and fail. And proven increasesin both noise levels and in air pollution have been recorded in neighborhoods with speed bumps with extra braking and acceleration noise and emissions levels, as well as abestos dust from brake systems of vehicles is required rather than a smooth constant travel over the street like other normal streets.

Real estate experts note that neighborhoods with speed bumps have homes with their values often decreased by thousands of dollars, as well as are more difficult to sell. A home with a speed bump in front of is seen as a "problem" neighborhood by buyers, and ignored by many customers who search for a "better" neighborhood to purchase a home.

Many persons with neck injuries or even arthritis suffer from increased pain or injury aggrevation in some cases, traveling over speed bumps.

And the cost of traffic circles and speed bumbs projects can run into the millions of dollars. But now the City Of Portland, claims that serious pothole problems cannot be fixed on many streets because funds are not available from a $8 million shortfall in gas tax revenues. Many misspending priorites had a lot to do with this.

Sometimes government spends millions to fix what isn't broke and creates more problems, and then does not have the funds to fix what is broke. Oh, the joys of government bureaucrasy!


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