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Waiver, please

Mail Tribune editorials

It makes no sense to penalize Medford for a needed road project

People who care about the air have labored long in recent years to help the Medford area escape penalties for violating federal carbon monoxide emissions limits.

Now it's possible a state road project may undo a decade's worth of work.

State officials say they don't think that's likely. They say although the overhaul of the freeway viaduct through Medford next year will spill thousands of cars onto city streets daily and tie up traffic on Interstate 5, the air probably is clean enough to take the traffic without pushing emissions beyond limits.

But here's the problem: If violations do occur, the Medford area will once again be considered a problem area, and residents likely will once again face winters using oxygenated gas.

Could this have happened at a worse time? The much-despised oxy gas has been required here since 1992, but CO emissions have fallen and we are likely to be freed from the fuel this year. The federal government is expected to approve the plan in November.

That's just in time for the road project due to run January through June. The people behind the project expect it to create idling lines of freeway traffic stretching as long as two miles.

If CO levels exceed federal limits in just two eight-hour periods during the six-month project, we face penalties again.

Area air quality officials, worried about the state project's effect, wrote to federal officials and asked for a waiver for violations during the project. A violation then would be an anomaly, after all, not a real indicator of what's going on with air quality here.

The government's response: We don't do waivers.

This tempts us to respond with a few things we don't do either, starting with tolerating government road projects that send half a year's worth of traffic headaches our way and have the potential to keep us in oxy gas to boot.

But that kind of response would be just like the government's: ridiculous.

Viva vendors

Street vendors may soon appear on downtown Medford streets. It's a good idea ' another attempt to make the downtown more inviting.

On Sept. 5 the City Council is expected to pass an ordinance allowing street vendors on sidewalks near Rogue Community College, City Hall and the Justice Building.

Vendors also would be allowed near the water fountain at the corner of Oakdale Avenue and 10th Street or in front of City Hall.

The ordinance ' in addition to limiting the location and number of carts ' would restrict cart sales to food or flowers. The city law also would set a &

36;100 month-by-month lease, and require that cart owners purchase a &

36;75 annual business license.

Unlike coffee stands, the street vendors will roll their carts in and out daily. The City Council has directed the city staff to find ways to allow vendors in city parks.

Operators of existing downtown businesses ' including restaurants ' seem to have a positive attitude about the arrival of street vendors, noting that more people downtown benefits every business.

It's that kind of positive attitude by downtown business owners that will make the urban renewal under way in Medford's downtown a success.

The City Council discussed the street vendor ordinance at its last meeting and was almost unanimous in its support. Let's hope the council opinion stays that way for the Sept. 5 meeting.