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MORE ON PLAN 8

Let's stick to the issues, please. Helen Gjessing's letter to the Source's open forum has a bit of mudslinging itself. First of all stop calling Plan 8
a monstrous highway. I invite the Source to print the photographic simulations of the to my mind vastly improved look of the waterfront. I swear to you that not one of the numerous people from all walks of life and socio economic status to whom I've shown these photos found them monstrous.
Quite the opposite, the photos stimulated enthusiasm for a public works project which to any objective individual is nothing but positive.
I don't know where Ms Gjessing lives but I live and work downtown
and battle the traffic everyday. Quite a number of people are aware of my passion for the historic district of Charlotte Amalie and that I put my money where my mouth is. The traffic situation is horrible. Property owners in the district see their property losing value. Owners of commercial buildings find it increasingly difficult to rent their space when faced with competition from modern buildings with plenty of parking in the west of St.Thomas. Right now, as much as the Chamber of Commerce as well as the League of Women Voters chant a litany of the historic connection of the town to the waterfront, there is no connection. People get killed crossing the road and townsfolk shop at the mall. Downtown is empty in the evening.
For six hours every day traffic crawls from east to west but zips right along in the other direction. Mainstreet is a crowded circus and Backstreeet as well
as Crystal Gade, Fireburn hill, up and down Savan and every other alternative route to the waterfront is fully and I mean fully utilized. In order to revitalize the downtown traffic congestion must be relieved.
The people to whom Ms Gjessing refers to as being on her side are categorically opposed to any road improvement on the waterfront but their main solutions to the traffic are all some sort of behavior modification of St. Thomians. Let us park and ride. Let us increase bus subsidies, we'll just raise taxes. let's change government or school hours and other variations of "if you bad people would just behave we would not have a traffic or any other problem for that matter" The thoughtful and benevolent newly arrived planners she mentions will simply explain in patois or spanish or papiamento to the new immigrant that he or she must change a dream of owning the first car to owning a bicycle, and that when the opponents of public improvement drive by in their SUVs that walking is good for their health.
But that is not enough. These benevolent newcomers have said that the people with the greatest depth of knowledge of the history of St.Thomas who
have been working to improve the situation should be replaced by them because they simply know better.
One night, about half a year ago, I almost had an accident when one of them attempted to turn onto the waterfront at the criminal justice complex from the wrong lane.
I've had a number of conversations with these people and think that they much prefer the lecturing approach to problem solving dialogue. Jose Ortega lectured me on project financing. "There is not enough money to finish the project" he said. I answered "raise the cruise passenger head tax to raise
$10 million annually which can then be dedicated to repay a $100 million bond issue." "the cruise ships will stop coming" he countered. "oh?", I said," they aren't building several more of these mega boats every year?, the industry doesn't make the bulk of it's profits in the Caribbean?, they don't strain our shaky infrastructure?, where else are they gonna go?, is it possible that fewer cruise ships might be good for St.Thomas?." He had not thought these things through and seemed quite unwilling to hear another perspective. I can cite other examples but suffice it to say that to me the anti construction individuals come across as very inflexible while engaged in a chorus of demagoguery.
These issues are very important and affect everyone. It is frustrating to have to read the daily news and find that your chamber dues are supporting a consultant to write against work that you feel strongly needs doing and no one wants to listen to let alone pay you for what you have to say. I sympathize with Russell Prendergast and admit to questioning the motives and methods of the opponents of a roadway solution.
Why keep categorizing Plan 8 variously as an eight or four lane highway. Am I crazy or is there not a four lane highway from the airport to the Legislature? Does the existing four lane highway not get bottlenecked between Fort Christian and the Legislature.? Shouldn't we be building adequate parking garages which bracket the business district? We must invest in structural improvements to our deteriorating and severely overloaded waterfront road and use that opportunity to make Charlotte Amalie shine for tourist and resident alike.
In closing, please realize that my comments are meant to be constructive and although they are in disagreement with the views of two pretty strong establishment organizations I hope that they can enhance further public debate.
Matt Eckstein

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Let's stick to the issues, please. Helen Gjessing's letter to the Source's open forum has a bit of mudslinging itself. First of all stop calling Plan 8
a monstrous highway. I invite the Source to print the photographic simulations of the to my mind vastly improved look of the waterfront. I swear to you that not one of the numerous people from all walks of life and socio economic status to whom I've shown these photos found them monstrous.
Quite the opposite, the photos stimulated enthusiasm for a public works project which to any objective individual is nothing but positive.
I don't know where Ms Gjessing lives but I live and work downtown
and battle the traffic everyday. Quite a number of people are aware of my passion for the historic district of Charlotte Amalie and that I put my money where my mouth is. The traffic situation is horrible. Property owners in the district see their property losing value. Owners of commercial buildings find it increasingly difficult to rent their space when faced with competition from modern buildings with plenty of parking in the west of St.Thomas. Right now, as much as the Chamber of Commerce as well as the League of Women Voters chant a litany of the historic connection of the town to the waterfront, there is no connection. People get killed crossing the road and townsfolk shop at the mall. Downtown is empty in the evening.
For six hours every day traffic crawls from east to west but zips right along in the other direction. Mainstreet is a crowded circus and Backstreeet as well
as Crystal Gade, Fireburn hill, up and down Savan and every other alternative route to the waterfront is fully and I mean fully utilized. In order to revitalize the downtown traffic congestion must be relieved.
The people to whom Ms Gjessing refers to as being on her side are categorically opposed to any road improvement on the waterfront but their main solutions to the traffic are all some sort of behavior modification of St. Thomians. Let us park and ride. Let us increase bus subsidies, we'll just raise taxes. let's change government or school hours and other variations of "if you bad people would just behave we would not have a traffic or any other problem for that matter" The thoughtful and benevolent newly arrived planners she mentions will simply explain in patois or spanish or papiamento to the new immigrant that he or she must change a dream of owning the first car to owning a bicycle, and that when the opponents of public improvement drive by in their SUVs that walking is good for their health.
But that is not enough. These benevolent newcomers have said that the people with the greatest depth of knowledge of the history of St.Thomas who
have been working to improve the situation should be replaced by them because they simply know better.
One night, about half a year ago, I almost had an accident when one of them attempted to turn onto the waterfront at the criminal justice complex from the wrong lane.
I've had a number of conversations with these people and think that they much prefer the lecturing approach to problem solving dialogue. Jose Ortega lectured me on project financing. "There is not enough money to finish the project" he said. I answered "raise the cruise passenger head tax to raise
$10 million annually which can then be dedicated to repay a $100 million bond issue." "the cruise ships will stop coming" he countered. "oh?", I said," they aren't building several more of these mega boats every year?, the industry doesn't make the bulk of it's profits in the Caribbean?, they don't strain our shaky infrastructure?, where else are they gonna go?, is it possible that fewer cruise ships might be good for St.Thomas?." He had not thought these things through and seemed quite unwilling to hear another perspective. I can cite other examples but suffice it to say that to me the anti construction individuals come across as very inflexible while engaged in a chorus of demagoguery.
These issues are very important and affect everyone. It is frustrating to have to read the daily news and find that your chamber dues are supporting a consultant to write against work that you feel strongly needs doing and no one wants to listen to let alone pay you for what you have to say. I sympathize with Russell Prendergast and admit to questioning the motives and methods of the opponents of a roadway solution.
Why keep categorizing Plan 8 variously as an eight or four lane highway. Am I crazy or is there not a four lane highway from the airport to the Legislature? Does the existing four lane highway not get bottlenecked between Fort Christian and the Legislature.? Shouldn't we be building adequate parking garages which bracket the business district? We must invest in structural improvements to our deteriorating and severely overloaded waterfront road and use that opportunity to make Charlotte Amalie shine for tourist and resident alike.
In closing, please realize that my comments are meant to be constructive and although they are in disagreement with the views of two pretty strong establishment organizations I hope that they can enhance further public debate.
Matt Eckstein