Dear Source,
I really do not want to rain on your parade because we, and everyone who has given time and energy to improve St.Thomas, want a beautiful and usable waterfront; but being labeled as having a petty agenda by an editorial in a paper whose owner, as a member of the League of Woman Voters, certainly has her own agenda, petty or not, simply requires a response.
About your statement that most in the community agree with the Chamber of Commerce, the jury, in all fairness, is still out.
Whether behavioral changes can reduce the number of vehicles which need to traverse east to west or even whether St. Thomians' behavior will be changed, also has yet to be tested.
That "traffic study after traffic study " has concluded that efficient roads are not needed flies in the face of the evident road construction all over the world.
People all over the world love the automobile and Virgin Islanders are no exception. Population will grow, exerting more traffic pressure . Bicycle paths from Havensight to Frenchtown may be amenities for tourists and residents but really don't have anything to do with commuters or parents taking kids to school.
28,000 cars in St. Thomas using roads sized for 14,000 cars is the problem.
I have a background in community development and commercial development. Congestion and highest and best use problems are no stranger to me and historical preservation is not either. During the past four years or so I became familiar with a number of traffic plans for the downtown. They included a tunnel, two bypasses, redirection of existing roads as well as the waterfront road.
I remain convinced that a construction solution is not only needed but can
serve as a catalyst for other desirable downtown improvements.
The chamber has opposed initiatives to improve the downtown before.
The former president of the chamber was a historic preservation commissioner when some of those millions of dollars mentioned in your editorial were spent.
Where was the chamber when that happened? Waiving parking requirements for
second stories in the downtown adding to the congestion. Where was the league of woman voters when the chamber opposed a nominal head tax to be paid by the cruise ship industry which makes most of its profits in the Caribbean and pollutes the sea to boot?
I was hoping those tax receipts could be applied to improve some of the infrastructure which the tourists certainly strain.
Would that not have helped the recently criticized budget?
In other words, let us at least agree not to demonize each other.
Although none of us know it all and all of us make mistakes, misinformed , misled or not, we all want a better St.Thomas. My fear is that we all may be fiddling while St.Thomas burns. I really think that removing the bottle neck at the legislature will result in smoother and faster traffic through town. That in turn will take the pressure off the back roads which many of us use toavoid getting stuck on the waterfront.
That should result in a more useable historic district which the tourist industry believes is an increasingly greater attraction for the traveler.
Plan 8 includes wonderful improvements at the vendor's plaza, creates green parks in areas which are now barren and ugly and reconnects Fort Christian and its barracks. Many people are not sure whether the little bit of rocky shore at the Legislature is worth preserving compared to these proposed improvements. As I have maintained all along, we really can do it all and do it right as long as we work together in a respectful manner.
Matt Eckstein

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