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Out of the Blue: If ancient Rome can be progressive, so can we

August 22, 2013|By Billy Fried

While the contentious Village Entrance Project continues to raise everyone's blood pressure, a pleasant little surprise slid through the City Council on Tuesday: City staff has succeeded in procuring a Caltrans grant for $180,000 to fund the Laguna Beach Enhanced Mobility and Complete Streets Transition Plan, part of the state's Complete Streets mandate.

Of course it's free money, so who would complain?

At a time when we are debating how to attract thousands of more cars into town, the state has mandated that cities reduce their dependence on them by creating more multimodal Complete Streets infrastructure. And to make it irresistible, they're giving us the money to join the party.

The actual grant is $200,000. We had to put up $20,000 to get some skin in the game. Seems worth it, especially since the grant requires public outreach, meaning we have considerable influence over the project. How refreshing.

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The money will go to fund a comprehensive plan (not study) to improve traffic circulation throughout our whole city, not just downtown. Everything will be on the table: dedicated bike and pedestrian lanes, enhanced public transit, more parking, sharrows, roundabouts, pedestrian-only streets, light rails and street cars. What? Fewer cars? Sounds downright socialist.

What's significant is how this dovetails perfectly with the Village Entrance conversation. Here now is a chance for council members to take a step back and evaluate the entrance project in the larger context of a diverse plan to increase parking, reduce traffic and improve our quality of life citywide.

And since now's a great time to borrow, and we have a municipal bond expert on the council, shouldn't we explore a more dynamic, forward-thinking plan? We don't have to borrow all the funds. There is more grant money out there. We just need a dedicated effort to find it, and get it.

And we need an audacious elected official with a big picture for the future who's not afraid to tackle fearmongers who still believe the convenience of driving and parking next to their destination will work forever — someone like Ignazio Marino, the newly elected mayor of Rome.

Ignazio is tearing down the main artery leading to the Colosseum to create a massive archaeological park. This famous, multi-lane road was built by Benito Mussolini in 1932 as a show of fascist power. Back then there was no congestion or the pollution that is now degrading buildings like the Colosseum.

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