Restoring traffic to Main won’t help Theater District

Once again I must emphatically disagree, this time specifically with Jeff Simon, who recently asserted that restoring automobile traffic to Main Street downtown will revive the Theater District. For the umpteenth time, Main Street was already on life support when the pedestrian mall was conceived. While its implementation 30 years ago was premature, in 2013, the setup makes perfect sense. We should be celebrating our mall, not maligning it; we should be improving it, not tearing it out.

No question after 30 years, Main Street definitely needed a face-lift and this project will indirectly provide it. However, eliminating a key Metro Rail stop in the Theater District and believing that automobile traffic will benefit the Arcade Cinema or enhance the downtown experience is a totally unfounded assumption.

The recent influx of residents in the downtown area has been nothing less than astounding, and more are sure to follow. Meanwhile, the Theater District, still so easily accessed from both Pearl and Washington streets, is alive and well. That degree of success will continue or fail, with or without auto traffic.

The automobile, often piloted by inattentive drivers, will do nothing but contaminate the growing residential neighborhood with noise, dirt and exhaust fumes. The nuisance, danger and gridlock created by delivery trucks will be abhorrent to those who travel Main Street by bike and to the residents, theatergoers and tourists who go about their business on foot or use public transportation.

Simon, Mayor Byron Brown and others now wait eagerly to cut the ribbon, crediting themselves and the return of the automobile for the resurgence of downtown, but that conviction is false and very much out of sync with reality. As is often said, “Timing is everything.” I’d say their clocks, as well as their thinking, are running backward.

Michael J. Zobel