Climate change deniers lobbied to kill the Mass Ave Corridor plan

Hey all – the ongoing saga of the Mass Ave Corridor Plan has taken a bizarre and somewhat disturbing turn. It appears as though Eric Berger and East Arlington Concerned Citizens Committee (EACCC) sought and received aid from a DC-based lobbying group that represents the automobile, highway construction and oil industries.

We received the attached letter to MassDOT’s Chief Engineer regarding the Mass Ave Corridor project from the President and CEO of the American Highway Users Alliance (AHUA). Though known primarily as a trade-industry group that lobbies for expansion of highways and road construction, they were also active members of the GCC or Global Climate Coalition (see various links at bottom). Now disbanded, the GCC was an alliance of auto companies, Big Oil and lobby groups committed to denying the scientific consensus on climate change and lobbied against policies related to reducing carbon emissions. Either as part of the GCC or working alone, the AHUA fought the Kyoto Protocol, lobbied against increased vehicle mileage standards and fought to kill Congressman Markey’s 2009 Climate Bill, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed the House but later died in the Senate.

The September 14, 2012 letter echoes all of the exaggerated or false claims that the EACCC have made against the project for the past four years: the current plan will create a traffic nightmare, bicyclists should stay on the Minuteman path, that the public has not been able to weigh in on the design, that the vast majority of the neighborhood is against the plan, etc.

One of the more outrageous segments in the AHUA letter says: For safety’s sake, bicyclists should not be encouraged to divert from their exclusive bikeway. If capacity is inadequate on the (Minuteman) Bikeway, efforts should be considered to widen it rather than divert bicyclists onto Massachusetts Avenue.

Months after the September 14 letter, Mr. Berger continued working with the lobbyists. After MassDOT’s written reply to the AHUA was forwarded to him, he quickly responded with multiple Freedom of Information Act Requests on nearly every statement made by the Chief Engineer in the reply letter. This included asking for an array of documents, phone messages, e-mails, hand-written notes and other back-up used to justify DOT’s written statements that, for instance, the “public supports the project”, or that up to “30 public meetings were held”, or that dozens of bicyclists actually use the roadway during peak commuter hours.

That a Washington DC lobbying group tried to influence our one-mile roadway project should concern all Arlingtonians. Local opposition to a project such as the Mass Ave Corridor plan is one thing. Having auto/highway/oil industry lobbyists trying to thwart the desire of a large percentage of our neighborhood and the overwhelming majority of Town Meeting is simply beyond the pale.
Besides the AHUA letter to MassDOT, other sources used include:

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