Ask the Architect

Will new developments bring more traffic?

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Q. I keep reading about new apartment buildings and housing developments, converting golf courses into new, expensive neighborhoods my children can’t afford. Do you know anything about how the county plans to handle all the traffic? I hope I’m not living here when the roads are choked with more cars.

A. I haven’t seen government working to coordinate or steer development. In the years I’ve been involved as a private planner and public reviewer, I’ve observed parts of the review process in your county government, but haven’t seen officials combining data, calculating infrastructure — such as how to handle all forms of water, sewer, roadways and traffic frequency, utility delivery or terrain analysis — or how schools, businesses and taxes would be affected. This is a monumental task that isn’t being done by public planners.

Our system is geared more toward letting private developers propose something and then waiting for citizens to react. We all have planning concerns and opinions. Some of the best questions come from people who express real fears about our drinking water, sewage treatment and traffic on such an enlarged scale.

In public hearings for the Mitchel Field 64-building Lighthouse project development, I wasn’t impressed with planning presentations, noting that the developers hadn’t addressed the big picture of combining public and private funding, enlisting cooperation or how their proposal would be an improvement. They could have been much more convincing with phased-in stages of development, showing how infrastructure, such as widened roads and new sewage and power plants would be built and paid for. Of course, government needed to cooperate and coordinate, by leading for the good of the communities it serves, but it did not.

Here are some ideas for you to consider. Traffic is a necessary evil, and we can only hope our public leaders educate themselves to address future problems we face, with or without expanded development. I hope they learn about and employ technology, already available, that moves traffic efficiently without having to widen roadways, using sensor technology, improved signage and preventive recoating of roads to avoid fissures that lead to potholes and vehicle damage.

Several innovations would help. Roundabouts keep traffic moving without traffic lights (or those nuisance cameras); better signage tells you what’s coming up; turn lanes minimize stop-and-go traffic; and intersection volume sensors keep heavier traffic moving while directing a single car to safely merge at intervals by analyzing and controlling stop lights. In the future, I hope they embed roadway sensors to combine information with vehicle sensors that align traffic and make speeds uniform. Savings from using existing roadway widths would allow for more, narrower lanes, keeping traffic moving. With GPS, you’ll set your destination and let the vehicle do the rest. If there’s an accident, air bags deploy and send signals to every vehicle within a certain distance to safely maneuver around it while signaling authorities of the type and amount of emergency. Solutions abound, if we employ them. Good luck!

© 2019 Monte Leeper. Readers are encouraged to send questions to yourhousedr@aol.com, with “Herald question” in the subject line, or to Herald Homes, 2 Endo Blvd., Garden City, NY 11530, Attn: Monte Leeper, architect.