Star my view cirta transport plan falls short, lacks options - kim irwin 2-14-11
My View: Transport plan falls short, lacks options4:58 PM, Feb. 15, 2011 |Written byKim IrwinThe public input process for Indy Connect, Central Indianas Transportation Initiative, culminates today, when the plan goes beforelocal elected officials for a final vote of approval. More than 10,000 comments from citizens. More than 125 public meetings andbriefings. And one prevailing message: We want more transportation options, including sidewalks and bikeways; we want improvedtransit, and we want it now.We applaud the extensive public dialogue and appreciate that residents were given a voice in planning our collective future. Clearly,the people of Central Indiana feel that Indy Connect -- which relies on a mix of bike and pedestrian amenities, bus, rail, andimproved roadways -- would transform mobility and livability in Central Indiana.Its unfortunate, then, that the detailed Indianapolis Metropolitan Planning Area 2035 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP)appears to specify only the roadway and bridge expansion and improvement projects -- at a cost of $9 billion. The transit, bike andpedestrian projects discussed at such great length through the Indy Connect planning process are not formally included in theLRTP, and new, separate funding must be secured in order to build them. This raises the question: Will we be investing that $9billion in the most effective way possible?We dont doubt that most members of the Indianapolis Regional Transportation Council (IRTC) -- the elected and appointed policyofficials and technical advisers of local governments and public agencies throughout the region -- want to see more multimodaloptions. The problem is that bike, pedestrian and transit projects will have to be selected, funded and implemented as the long-range plan unfolds over the decades to come -- not from the outset, like the roadway projects are.And that is where this plan falls short. A truly balanced transportation system doesnt just happen by accident. We have to beintentional and committed in developing policies, prioritizing projects and channeling investments into multimodal options. If we wanta different future, we need a different approach, and this plan represents business as usual.Fortunately, our local officials still have the opportunity to ensure implementation of a plan that sends the message to residents andemployers that we are dedicated to creating a healthy and connected environment for families and business.When the IRTC Policy Committee votes to adopt and advance the Long Range Transportation Plan, it can commit to implementingIndy Connect in its entirety -- including the transit, bike and pedestrian pieces. It can require that roadway projects includesidewalks, bikeways and transit accommodations. It can redirect some of the $9 billion into more innovative transit, bike andpedestrian projects. It can prioritize and phase multimodal projects in parallel with road projects, rather than as an afterthought andwith funds that may never appear. It can work cooperatively to advocate for the critical funding options that require approval by theGeneral Assembly.Our local elected officials face a key decision. We urge their leadership and commitment in meeting the transportation and mobilityneeds of all residents. A stronger future for our region depends on it.Irwin leads Health by Design, a coalition working to ensure that Central Indianas public spaces and infrastructure promotehealthy, active living.