By Jody Reese
It’s important to recognize the significance of the Interstate 93 widening in progress. While opponents have rightly been leery of growth that might result from making it easier to commute to the Boston area, the good on this project far outweighs the bad.
All growth is not bad. Growth in the cities of Manchester and Concord is good for the local economy and has little negative environmental impact. Clustering new homes and retail in more rural communities, such as Auburn, can also lessen the negative impact of sprawl.
The other major benefit resulting from this project is that it will improve the area’s air quality, at least for now. Congestion has a very negative impact on air quality. With reduced congestion, air quality will improve almost immediately. The people now traveling down I-93 aren’t going to stop, so providing a faster, safer and lower-environmental-impact drive is a good thing.
However, and this is a big however, this needs to be the beginning of a process of moving motorists to alternative transportation, including buses, rail and carpooling. This could be accomplished by a toll or a user tax on the road or by giving tax breaks to people who don’t drive their own car into the Boston area.
Opponents are absolutely correct that if we do nothing, we’ll be right back where we started — on a congested interstate — and that doesn’t make much sense.