Rainer: Is it affordable?

By Dave Alden

We often make spending decisions as households differently than as communities. And the difference isn't good for our communities.

As households, we use a two-step process when considering a purchase. First, we think about whether we want something. Then we decide if it's worth the price.

"Gee, those cookies look good. Oops, not for $7.99."

"I'd like to try that cheese. Okay, I'm willing to spend $4.50."

"Wow, I want that Porsche! $85,000? No way."

This decision process seems obvious, even self-evident. But we often drop the second step when considering municipal infrastructure. Instead, the discussion revolves around whether we want something, such as a new park or a widened freeway, rather than whether it would be the best use of our dollars. Or if we can afford it at all.

An example of the blind spot is now on display in Petaluma. The discussion of the proposed Rainier Avenue connector has largely focused on the pros and cons of having another route between McDowell Boulevard and Petaluma Boulevard North. The cost of $100 million, give or take a rounding error, is usually in the background.

I talk regularly with friends who are passionate about local land use. In discussing the Rainier Avenue connector, we've noted the advantages of improved routing for transit and local trips, traffic congestion relief (although the induced traffic effect will limit the benefit), and reduced travel times to the hospital.

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