At least one writer at the Erie Times News is offering editorial support for an idea that, somehow, keeps popping up decade after decade, it’s the dream of connecting Presque Isle to Erie’s east side. This most recent resurrection is based around the idea of a tunnel under the channel, a “chunnel,” though in past years the dream sometimes appeared as a bridge. Unfortunately, it makes no more sense now than before.
Emerge 2040, the gift that keeps on giving
What’s behind this latest push? Well, Michael Fuhrman, former Destination Erie consultant, is promoting his essay “The case for connecting Presque Isle to Erie’s east side — a historic opportunity,” which oddly enough, touts an item buried deep in the plan he helped author, the Emerge 2040 comprehensive plan. Under the section Community Facilities you’ll find this entry:
CF–2. Connect Presque Isle to the Mainland across the Channel
Develop a tunnel serving pedestrians, cyclists, trolleys and emergency vehicles approximately 1,000 feet from Coast Guard Road under the channel to connect with the Port Authority Access Road to provide a second point of entrance and exit for the park.
Yes, Emerge 2040 offers up yet another idea for spending taxpayer dollars on projects that make no economic sense, but ideas like these are like catnip for planners. Former County Executive Judy Lynch has teamed up with Fuhrman to sell the idea to local officials and the state of PA. According to the newspaper editorial, Gov. Wolf has expressed interest, too. Well, why not?. It’s not his money.
Judy Lynch was quoted as saying:
I used to be suspicious that it wasn’t a very good idea, or even needed, now I couldn’t be more for it for a lot of reasons, like tying the peninsula in with the downtown. But the biggest reason is fairness.
Wait a minute, fairness? Did the peninsula just recently drop out of the sky leaving east side residents poorly positioned for access or have people for over a century simply chosen where they wanted to live? What is she talking about? That impeccable reasoning could justify unlimited government spending to make life fair for everyone because their personal choices didn’t work out.
It’s not their money so why should they care?
Government planners never look at costs and benefits like you and I do because they’re spending other people’s money, never their own. Neither Erie County nor the state have any spare money for building projects like this. Beyond providing essential services and maintaining infrastructure, everything local government does should be for the purpose of making it easier for businesses to start and operate so they can create real jobs. As noted countless times, the single best anti-poverty program is a job.
If the peninsula was an area filled with houses and businesses, a shorter route to Erie’s center city might make economic sense, but it’s a state park. Building a tunnel is a pure cost, spending money we don’t have, for a project no one needs.
How about a real business instead?
If there is a massive unmet need for east side access to the peninsula, there would seem to be an opportunity for a ferry service to take hikers, bikers, tourists and beach goers across the water on a regular basis. There would be no need for a feasibility study, environmental impact statement or anything else, just get a big enough boat, figure out where you’ll launch from, get whatever permits are required and you’re in business, but in that case, there would be no lucrative government contracts to hand out to preferred providers for impact studies, engineering, design and construction, no necessity for planning commissions, committee meetings and press conferences to show our local officials hard at work, no shiny shovels turning over dirt for the TV cameras and no ribbon cutting with smiling politicians in hardhats, just a company doing the hard work of providing a real service, creating real jobs and paychecks, all the natural consequence of meeting a need that really exists.
Of course, if this unmet need isn’t really there, if no one will pay for the boat ride, the business fails and the business owner loses his investment which is why he is careful to make sure it isn’t a pipe dream. If politicians spend your money and mine on an idea like this, they lose nothing if it fails or produces no benefits, they just shrug their shoulders and move on to the next one.
It’s not skepticism, it’s common sense
The Times News article notes when the plan was touted before it has, “often been met with instant skepticism.” Then again, if your ten year old child runs in one day asking for a pony and a swimming pool, as the adult in the room that has to pay the bills, your response isn’t skepticism, it’s more like maturity and common sense. Sorry guys, we don’t need and we can’t afford a pony and a pool, … or a peninsula tunnel, either, so please, stop asking.