WHAT TO DO WITH ROUTE 240?
At first glance, America’s off-road vehicle craze seems illogical. But if viewed as an emerging grassroots highway preference, it may resolve a contentious local road-building issue.
At a recent Sprague Brook Park town hall meeting, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz was peppered with demands to rebuild Route 240 between Kissing Bridge and Springville—a six-mile strip of broken pavement. According to Poloncarz, the road money is simply not there for lightly traveled, low-priority roads like Route 240. As long as elected officials limit money for roadwork, the highly traveled roads in the Amherst area will get top priority.
What to do?
First, grasp the reason why so many drivers trade in comfortable two-wheel-drive vehicles for rugged, four-wheel-drive pickups, Broncos, Pathfinders, and Cherokees—vehicles capable of handling adverse road conditions. They obviously want a more challenging driving experience.
Second, because so many people eagerly spend their own money to own vehicles built for a rough-road environment, perhaps it’s time to stop overspending on our highway infrastructure. If today’s drivers want a more primitive roadway experience, why should out-of-date highway policies stand in their way?
Third, local highway maintenance decisions should reflect the growing number of off-road vehicles on our highways. As their numbers go up, the number of designated, not-maintained roads for their use will also go up. And, of course, road maintenance costs will go down.
Other roads, parallel to Route 240, will need to be maintained to accommodate those drivers still owning two-wheel drive, smooth-road sedans. The bulk of the available road money will keep those roads in good repair.
While drivers of gas-sucking off-road vehicles boost our national fuel consumption, this cost will be offset by the huge savings associated with lower road repair costs. On balance, the environment will benefit from a new policy that no longer attempts to pave America. These drivers, once accused of fouling the environment through their wasteful use of fossil fuels, can rebrand themselves as dedicated conservationists.
With the passage of time, Route 240 will be allowed to take on a frontier look and feel, not because of limited funds, but because that is what a growing number of drivers really want.
Are we are ready for a new approach to highway infrastructure that both accommodates stingy public fiscal policies and gives drivers roads to match the capabilities of their rugged vehicles? Yes we are!!
Let’s stop demanding that Mr. Poloncarz build roads with money he does not have. This new highway policy will ease pressures on public officials to do the impossible and, at the same time, free up monies to address urgent public issues, like funding Medicaid and addressing the opioid addiction crisis. —RONALD FRASER
The writer, a former transportation planner, lives in the Town of Colden.
THE DMV AND SERVICE TO NON-ENGLISH SPEAKERS
About a week ago I accompanied my boyfriend to the Erie County DMV. Having come from the much smaller city of Cortland, New York, the Erie County DMV is very intimidating. Never before had I entered a DMV that required one to walk through metal detectors or take a ticketed number. It was like a movie. After a short wait, we were up. Naturally, the man helping us was condescending and grumpy—but I suppose that’s what I expected. The real surprise is what took place at the booth next to ours.
A couple, appearing to be Muslim and in their 30s or 40s, had been called; they had a baby in a stroller and an envelope full of papers. They appeared to have brought with them anything and everything that could have possibly been required to get a New York State ID—Social Security cards, proofs of address—but they didn’t speak English. They tried their hardest to communicate what they needed to the woman at the counter. They pointed to different documents, they presented her with various forms, and in response she very firmly and rather loudly stated that she could not help them. That her job was not to stand there and fill out paperwork with them. And finally that what they needed to do was to leave and not come back until they found a translator who could help them. I stepped in and calmly asked if I was allowed to help, to which she replied, “I don’t care. But I can’t help them.” After a moment of processing I sat down with the couple and their beautiful baby and I helped them with their forms. This took a total of maybe 10 minutes out of my day. In no way was this an inconvenience or even time-consuming. But that DMV employee, whose job is literally to help clients at the DMV get what they need, could not and would not be bothered.
As I suspected, this couple did not have a car. So, if they had taken the woman’s advice to find a translator, they would have had to also find a way, whether it be walking or public transportation, to get themselves, their baby, and their newfound translator back to the DMV.
Based on hours spent in different human services courses at Canisius College, I know that government-funded buildings are legally required to provide clients not proficient in English with the resources they need to function. However, the DMV is a state agency. After some quick research, I discovered that in 2011, Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 26 stated that all state-funded facilities (e.g. the DMV) are required by law to both provide important documents in languages other than English (something which was not offered to this couple), as well as to provide translators to those in need of such. The Erie County DMV is not doing what is legally required of them, nor are they being held accountable.
Buffalo is a city experiencing a renaissance in no small way due to the hard work of immigrants and refugees. They are one of things that make Buffalo and Western New York a place near and dear to myself and so many others.
Something needs to be done about this blatant disregard for state law and human dignity, and we need to start holding government employees and agencies accountable for their ignorance, their bias, and their hostility toward our city’s newest citizens.
For more on Executive Order 26 and exactly what it entails, visit: https://www.governor.ny.gov/news/no-26-statewide-language-access-policy. —MARGARET TREICHLER
The writer is a junior at Canisius College studying human services, communications, and women and gender studies.