Traffic experts say the darndest things

A truck and trailer emerges from Site Ready property onto Eagleville Road last summer. A truck and trailer emerges from Site Ready property onto Eagleville Road last summer.

A truck and trailer emerges from Site Ready property onto Eagleville Road last summer.

A truck and trailer emerges from Site Ready property onto Eagleville Road last summer.

It isn’t just the degree that separates traffic experts from the rest of us. It’s the talent for saying the most remarkable things while keeping a straight face.

One was at it again last week in Tiverton Town Hall.

Asked by the developer who employed him to gauge the potential traffic impact of 680 trips by big trucks a day on a sleepy Tiverton road with no shoulders, his response — Negligible.

But what about the fact that trucks would have to line up out on town roads while waiting their turn to dump or pick up loads at the proposed regional recycling center? Not a problem.

Wouldn’t children riding bicycles or walking along this road be at risk? Nope.

What about noise and exhaust from all those dump trucks? No big deal.

Have you ever offered a traffic opinion that disagrees with the developer who hired you (question from the audience)? No comment.

Traffic experts are those people paid to testify by companies seeking town development permits. After reciting impressive professional resumes, their usual job is to answer “Little or no impact” to any traffic question asked.

Westport heard it not long ago when a doughnut place wanted to open a “drive-thru” at one of the busiest corners on Route 6 (despite lacking much in the way of parking space). Warren no doubt heard the same thing when another doughnut drive-thru was proposed (and approved) at that town’s busiest corner.

A traffic expert amazed Portsmouth some years ago when he said the same thing about a proposed thousand-resident world-class resort hotel and condo project off a quiet side street emptying onto hectic West Main Road. “Little or no impact.” That plan was rejected.

The advantage traffic engineers have is that they are usually the only one in the room with a degree in traffic. Board and audience members can express skepticism but they aren’t traffic experts so don’t know any better.

It’s lucrative work for these hired guns but requires special skills and deadpan delivery. To see how it’s done, attend the next hearing on that Tiverton recycling facility.

Dump trucks by the hundred on Eagleville Road? Nobody will even notice.

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