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Toll Road Indiana: The Governor's Folly

Indiana's Governor has proposed a new toll road beltway around Indianapolis. This has stunned locals who did not perceive a need for such a bold move. In fact, local planning organizations had not even suggested such a thing. (Indy Star article) It is my strong belief that a toll road is only conceivable as a secondary priority to creation of a local commuter rail system. The need for such a rail system HAS been perceived as necessary by more than a few local folks.

Here is the text of my letter to Governor Mitch Daniels , and my State Representative, Jerry Torr.

Dear Governor Daniels:

I will be the first to commend you for being proactive and forward-looking in your leadership of our state. However, I am deeply puzzled and dismayed by your suggestion of a new beltway around Indianapolis.

Though Indiana has the capacity to contribute bio-fuels to our energy needs, this is an odd time to suggest such a large investment in a system which would promote further dependency on oil of any kind. Further, this will promote more sprawl.

Our existing neighborhoods, retail, and commercial districts will decay so long as it is less expensive to build new in an outlying area. Highways are essentially government subsidizing the sprawl in these outlying areas. And, as others have commented, trucks are unlikely to use the toll road until existing highways are impassable.

Finally, it would seem that commuter rail in central Indiana would be a much higher priority for a sustainable and forward-looking state. I am perpetually astounded by the (slow) timelines I hear for commuter- and high-speed rail projects in our state. Regarding beltways, I have never heard anyone say “I wish we were more like Houston,” or “I wish we were more like Los Angeles.” Yet even these auto-centric cities are now retrofitting their communities with commuter rail systems. Even Kansas City has approved plans to develop a light rail system.

Assuming that you still intend to push forward with this plan, please allow me to suggest three co-requisite items, which should be integrated into the legislation.

1) Develop a comprehensive regional land-use policy for the affected areas, assuring a full spectrum of urban-to-rural uses. (rather than uniform sprawl, requiring extensive infrastructure development by local municipailites, and providing less variety to users)

2) Fund a dramatic increase in Farmland Preservation programs near the toll road.

3) Construct a first generation commuter rail system

These items are vital to any plan for a new toll road. They are the only way such a plan might be considered progressive and responsible.

Thank you for your consideration.


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