Thursday, November 16, 2006

Governor Daniels Ignores One-Year-Old Study Of Bypass

When Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) met with the Star's editorial staff earlier this week to promote his proposed toll road bypass around Indianapolis, he said he didn't have any studies to support his contentions that it would ease traffic congestion and spur economic development--a real sticking point for the Star. Governor Daniels did not mention that a study completed by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) just last year found the complete opposite for a bypass which would encircle the entire metropolitan area. It was a study he had in fact been briefed on in the weeks leading up to the announcement of the project according to his own spokesman. He dismissed the report because it compared "apples to apples". "There are so many differences. It's only a small piece of the larger picture," said Jan Jankowski. Here is what the key findings of that the Parsons-Brinkerhoff $850,000 study are according to Theodore Kim:

• An outer beltway would have a mixed impact on travel patterns. Traffic would be cut on some existing roadways but could increase on some feeder highways.
• There would be a "generally negligible impact" on regional development patterns, even as far out as 2040, after a beltway had been open for 15 years. The area that could benefit the most is Madison County, with employment shifting there from Hendricks, Hamilton and Johnson counties.
• Development is likely to occur around major interchanges, including restaurants, gas stations, warehouses and distribution centers and smaller office parks. However, "it will take decades before a significant amount of regional development reaches" the corridor.
• The "relatively low traffic forecasts and the lack of associated land use may be surprising, given the 'build it and they will come' view shared by many people with respect to new roadways." The study cited several reasons for that: The outer belt would be relatively far from the center of Indianapolis and other job centers; it wouldn't have much of an impact on Downtown commuters; and a significant amount of land is still available for development closer to the urban core.

It is quite interesting that the study found that the traffic congestion on I-465, I-70 and I-74 would be relieved very little by a new outer beltway because most of the that traffic is local. In fact, it found traffic would increase on I-70 and I-74. It found a "negligible" impact on economic development because the road would be built so far from the central city, and there was still plenty of undeveloped land nearer the city. It also found that the highway would shift jobs from Hamilton, Hendricks and Johnson County to Madison County in the northeast.

What is equally as troubling as the study's findings is the Governor's lack of candor about its existence. Kim writes:

Neither Daniels nor transportation officials made mention of the INDOT study until asked about it. The study was not available on the agency's Web site Wednesday. Abell said the study was "inadvertently" purged as part of a Web site overhaul and would be restored as soon as today.

Yet, another study appears to have looked at the proposed bypass years earlier according to a story in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette. According to the AP report, the proposed route is very similar to a nearly ten-year-old federal study of a proposed route for I-69 around Indianapolis. The AP reports:

Tom Tokarski, the head of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, said Daniels’ idea is just a ruse to build the highway without calling it I-69 – a way to circumvent opposition and questions about how the long-planned road would be routed through Indianapolis.

“They’ve always had a problem getting (I-69) around Indianapolis,” said Tokarski, a Monroe County resident. “... They’re looking for a way to fund I-69 – but that is I-69.”

He said the route of the proposed Indiana Commerce Connector, announced last week by the governor, would follow essentially the same path as a partial I-69 route suggested in May 1997 by a federally commissioned study.

Tokarski said a May 1997 study produced by the consulting firm Wilbur Smith Associates identified an outer loop around Indianapolis as one of three ways to get I-69 around the city. That proposed route said the outer loop would generally follow Indiana 9 from Pendleton to Shelbyville and Indiana 44 from Shelbyville to Martinsville, essentially the same route that Daniels identified for the Indiana Commerce Connector, Tokarski said.

The study’s two other alternatives involved adding lanes to Interstate 465 and building a section of I-69 from the northeast into downtown Indianapolis.

Suffice it to say the Governor has gotten off to a rather clumsy start in convincing the public that this new toll road bypass is needed.


Anonymous said...

Wasn't the study completed before they announced the Honda plant? If they were to consider Honda I would think that changes the outcome.

Anonymous said...

4 Recommendations that are all common sense? I hope they hire me for their next study!!!! This is an outrage!!

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 8:37, I don't like the idea of making a decision to take tens of thousands of acres of farmland and thousands of homes and businesses to build a road for the benefit of a single automobile plant that may or may not be around in 20 years.

Anonymous said...

The road would not be built for the benefit of a single auto plant, but for the benefit of the entire region. We have to stop thinking in the "today" and position Indiana for the "tomorrow." This road, in concert with light rail/rapid transit, would be a step in the right direction. As for the farmland issue, I would like someone to offer proof that displacing this land would negatively impact Indiana's ag business. The fact is that Gov. Daniels is the boldest, most progressive governor we've had -- ever -- and Hoosiers are horrified by the prospect of change. The other fact is that he doesn't much care what his critics say, which is a good thing. Sometime you need leaders who don't govern by sticking their fingers in the air to see which way the favorable wind is blowing. And if the voters reject him in '08, so be it.
We'll just go back to being Indiana again.

Jay said...

Having grown up on a farm, I can attest that once farmland is lost to housing and roads, it's lost. If we don't feel even a little twinge of pain for paving over the lands that feed us, we're in serious trouble.

I'm all for progress, but for sustainable progress. AI is right about the plant's future. If the Gov. is so forward-thinking, why is he all set on bringing the same types of businesses here that have existed in Indiana for nearly a century, and not go for something truly new? An auto-plant will only benefit the auto workers and service-industry workers that have been displaced elsewhere in the state by other auto-plants closing their doors leading to a collapse of the service industry around those plants. If he really wants progess, he needs to be thinking of the 21st century, not the 20th.

Also, if you're going to build this new loop, make it a true loop that goes around the entire Indy region. For arguments sake, building half a loop ignores future growth around the westside suburbs, airport, and the northwest suburbs of Indy.

Gary R. Welsh said...

anon 9:31, the Governor's plan includes no plans for a rapid transit system. Jay is right. Once farmland is given up for development it is never reclaimed for that use. The Governor has rightfully pursued the development of ethanol and biodiesel as alternative fuels, which requires plenty of corn and soybean production. The outer beltway will urbanize a very large portion of central Indiana, making it difficult for farmers in the region to traverse public highways with their equipment. Farmland values will skyrocket just like they have in the adjacent counties to Marion and force more land out of production.

Anonymous said...

Mitch Daniels would do much better if he asked the people before just deciding what is good for 6 million people. Ask the people instead of acting like a Dictator would be much more pleasant now wouldnt it? All he does is stir crap and controversy. This is America!!!

Anonymous said...

One automobile plant does not a recovery make. It was, and is, a nice plum. But for anyone who thinks it can last forever, I have four words for you:

United Airlines Maintenance Facility.

The Wall Street Journal called UAMF the "economic devleopment jewel of the decade." Gov. Bayh negotiated, for the first time in state history, that porportionate shares of the incentives would be repaid to the government, if hiring guidelines were not met.

Well, bing bango bongo, UA goes belly-up, and a bankruptcy court, in its first move, voids that state's agreement. Bankruptcy judges are, after all, the most-powerful people on the planet, with the power to negate or bless almost anything in the name of repaying God-Almighty corporate debtors.

I have yet to see a major Mitch proposal that doesn't include the smug nose-in-the-air attitude he seems to embrace. Kinda like W's smirk.

Well, the public just bitch-slapped the smirk off W's face. Mitch would do well to take note. Sometimes it's not even the idea, it's the attitude. That's just human nature.

Mitch needs a Dale Carnegie course PDQ. Some of his ideas are actually refrehsing, and, if they were placed on the table with a true atittude of give-and-take, with open debate and editing, we'd be better off.

This form a guy who "aw-shucks"ed us all over Indiana in a freaking motor home for 18 months.

Superb acting. A true leader listens, and reacts. Without rancor or disgust for those whom (s)he serves.

As in: O'Bannon.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:24
Yes, this is America. Sadly, it is also Indiana, forever stuck in the mud while other states race past us and prepare for the future. Bulletin: This just in ... the world is changing and Indiana had better prepare to change with it. By the way, this "romanticization" of farmers and farmland is nice, but it ignores how many farmers have been quick to sell their land to developers in outlying areas, thus creating the necessity for infrastructure such as roads. Farmers take the money and run (usually to retirement in Florida), just like the good capitalists they are.
Daniels is no dictator ... he has proposed an idea that will have to work its way through myriad levels of government that will provide multiple opportunities for public input. This blog is an example of the kind of dialogue that will take place. But at least he's willing to take a bold approach, rather than just sit in his office and play it safe (and re-electable) like so many previous administrations.
And AI, how about proof that "thousands" of homes and businesses will be taken to build this road, or is that just a fear-generating generalization?
Indiana's strength is location, location, location, and we have to consider the best ways to take advantage of that. Hoosiers need to look past the ends of their noses and realize their world doesn't end at the state line.
Once again, the alternative is to just be "Indiana", the way it's always been, 20-30 years behind instead of thinking 20-30 years ahead.
How about this for a state slogan:
Indiana: Where Progress Goes to Die
Hoosiers: We Suck, But We Like It That Way

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, 11:05....even though you seem to be a self-loathing Hoosier.

Never quite understood that sentiment.

Your governor would do well to soft-pedal some of his ideas, open them up to discussion, and allow others to share his vision, without the pompous ass attitude he has. As it is, sadly, he's going to be a one-termer if he doesn't quickly start to realign that nasty attitude.

It's damned hard to see through the attitude to good ideas.

And it's a pattern with this guy.
Ask his "wife."

Anonymous said...

Thanks, 11:27.
For the record, I'm not a self-loathing Hoosier. Just want us to be un-Hoosier-like, which is to say, progressive.
As for Daniels being a one-termer, frankly, I don't think he gives a hoot, and that's what I find refreshing: a politician not leading to be re-elected, but leading out of pure motives to advance the state. Again, he isn't playing it safe.
Does he come across as smug? Arrogant? Sure, to some. But it's not his attitude that matter, it's his actions. This guy isn't afraid to lay it all out there.
Besides, anyone who can put Pat (Muskrat Love) Bauer's shorts in a permanent state of bunched discomfort is OK by me.
Anon 11:00 ... Frank O'Bannon was a wonderful man. But no one ever led more passively than he, and that's partly why (Pat Bauer would be a bigger reason) Indiana back-slid for so long under Democratic rule.
Now Judy O'Bannon ... there's a dynamo!

Jay said...

"By the way, this "romanticization" of farmers and farmland is nice, but it ignores how many farmers have been quick to sell their land to developers in outlying areas, thus creating the necessity for infrastructure such as roads. Farmers take the money and run (usually to retirement in Florida), just like the good capitalists they are."

Do you grow your own food? I think this is an awfully glib view of Hoosier farmers for someone who can't even post their own name, ANON 11:05.

True, many farmer have left the area through selling their lands to developers.

As for Indiana being "Indiana," the minute we grow some mountains, or some seaside and stop being in the middle of the country, that might change.

If the Gov. wants to be 30 years ahead, he needs to plan on some mass transport for central Indiana since Indianapolis is the largest metro region in the country without it. (Don't get me started on the pathetic excuse for mass transport called IndyGo.)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, like I'm the first anonymous blogger to post an opinion on this site.
FYI, I grew up on a farm (we were renters). That farm is now, yep, a housing development ... several, in fact.
My question is: Can someone provide hard figures about how this road would negatively impact Indiana's overall ag business? How many farmers in the proposed path would actually be happy to sell, so they too can take the money and run (perhaps to Florida).
And I agree with you on mass transit, wholeheartedly. But it doesn't have to be one (the road) or the other (mass transit). It can be both.

Anonymous said...

12:04--I doubt the impact to farmland would be severe, under the governor's favored road plan. But it would rob us of farmland, at a time we're losing thousands of acres daily.

True, farmers are more efficient today than ever. And the screwy federal subsidies pay some of them to leave portions of their farms unplanted.

But land grabs are permanent. Ask the residents of the Old Northside, where the I-65 and I-70 splits in the late 60s and early 70s permanently altered neighborhoods. Of course, the powers-that-be at the time didn't care, inasmuch as these were stalwart Democratic wards and precincts.

Most of us are open-minded, and although 11:05 protests otherwise, we're proud to be Hoosiers. "Hoosier" does not equal "backward."

The term does equate with good ole' common sense, though...and the governor's plan, while it may make sense, was presented with a holier-than-thou attitude that ole Gramma Anonymous used to call "uppity."

"Never use The Great 'I'," Gramma used to say.

Of course, she was right. Humility is a virtue, and Mitch, well...he has no humility.

Wouldn't it be sad to lose some good ideas to bull-headedness?

Alas, it's already happened, and will again, under this governor.

Anonymous said...

Hey, this is real off topic, but are you hearing anything big about Mike O'Connor for next week?

Anonymous said...

Lord I certainly hope not.

Anonymous said...

Well,the developers could build cheap, high-density high-rises waaaaay out there, then ship-out undesirables, then lock-em in with a tollway.

Section 8 money is good money for some developers.

Anonymous said...

Mitch spent 18 months listening to people around the state as he campaigned. He still travels around the state. We elected him as governor to lead us -- take our input and come up with creative ideas and proposals. We do need to debate them -- but we need someone to put them out there boldly, not waiting until a group-think commission or forum or study can come to a consensus.

All the farmland in Hancock, Madison, and other counties is slowly being eaten up by housing developments anyway -- now is the perfect time to think about infrastructure connecting them. Otherwise, we will be bitching in 10-20 years about why someone didn't think of that "back then." Mitch isn't proposing a specific route -- he is leaving that up for debate. He is, however, laying out a bold plan.

Mass transit is not going to work in a sprawled city like Indy -- at least not anything near cost-effectively. It works in high-density areas, and Indy is far from that. The costs involved in mass transit (and the costly and limited entry points) make it inconceivable here. Another great "romanticization" I am afraid.

Yes, the Honda plant is industrial manufacturing. But the state government has lots of programs in place for high tech and biotech investments as well. The ICC plan is more about transportation and logistics than it is about industrial manufacturing. Look at places like the Wal-Mart distribution centers in Greencastle and Greenfield, and the warehouse parks in Lebanon. People have to transport goods through Indianapolis (we may not have mountains or beaches, but we are in the middle of most transportation routes), so taking advantage of that is something we must do.

And if Mitch turns out to be a one-term governor, then sobeit.

Anonymous said...

"Mass transit is not going to work in a sprawled city like Indy."

It may when commutes in this area get longer and longer and people are fed up being in their cars for hours a day just to get around central Indiana.

Love of sprawl and traffic sounds like "romanticizing" the 1970s.