Ohio: A State DOT That Doesn’t Try to Hide Its Total Disregard for Bike-Ped

Cartoon: Jeff Darcy ##http://www.cleveland.com/darcy/index.ssf/2011/11/odot_gives_shoreway_project_lo.html## The Plain Dealer##

Just how highway-focused is the Ohio Department of Transportation under John Kasich? Well, it’s not good. In fact, it’s sort of laughably, hilariously terrible (if you don’t live here, that is).

Yes, ODOT is showing its true colors in its dismissive attitude with the West Shoreway highway-to-boulevard project that Cleveland has been planning for decades. It’s clear from this case that John Kasich’s ODOT thinks livability projects like highway-to-boulevard conversions are pretty silly.

First of all, this project has been advanced by three governors of varying political stripes. Already $400 million in desperately needed investment is underway along the corridor. That money is what we in Ohio call economic development — the sort of thing John Kasich has built his whole governorship around attracting.

Okay, here comes the funny part. ODOT let the project go way, way over budget and now there’s not enough to complete the plan. So the city of Cleveland returned to the state DOT for its second round of funding.

But ODOT is making it clear they aren’t too enthusiastic about this kind of thing anymore.

ODOT Spokesman Steve Faulkner told the Plain Dealer last week: “Given the budget crunch states are facing, it’s really hard to justify throwing more money into a project that is designed to reduce speed, won’t alleviate congestion and in some ways downgrades a perfectly good roadway.”

See why it’s funny? The whole point of the project was to make Cleveland’s lakefront accessible to people who aren’t in cars. The highway is a giant barrier to Cleveland’s notoriously underdeveloped Lake Erie coastline.

But pedestrians and cyclists don’t rate too highly at the state’s main transportation agency, as you can see from ODOT’s spokesperson. In fact, they don’t even warrant mention.

ODOT has a committee called TRAC that was designed to “remove politics” from the transportation funding process. But under Kasich, TRAC has pretty much decided “nonpolitically” that transit projects aren’t important and highway projects are. (This is the group that tried really, really hard to kill the Cincinnati Streetcar.)

In keeping with this pattern, TRAC gave the West Shoreway project a total score of 25 points on a 100-point scale, based on criteria including traffic congestion, safety, environmental and economic impacts and local financial support.

And get this: A project that has already generated almost half a billion dollars in investment got awarded zero points for economic development. Zero!

Faulkner told the Plain Dealer that the economic development category measures only projects’ ability to move customers and goods more efficiently. Which makes perfect sense as a measure of economic development, if highways exist in a vacuum and vehicle throughput is the only meaningful way to determine the wellbeing of a community.

Said Faulkner: “Retail, beautification and livability enhancements — such as reducing a road from a highway to a boulevard and adding trees and bike paths — do not improve a project’s economic [return on investment] score.”

So investments that seek to take advantage of the quality of life assets of a piece of transportation infrastructure don’t count because only truckers moving freight count in Ohio.

There you have it folks. Ohio: it’s doesn’t matter if it’s a good or bad place to live, as long as it’s still a great place to drive through in a truck.

  • Delco462003

    That last statement says it all. Ohio is a great way to get from the eastern seaboard to Michigan/Chicago. Also why Ohio is completely un-awe-inspiring from the turnpike and has failed to invite passersby into its towns. For traveling purposes, Ohio is simply an unfortunate means to an end, a state that must be bared for the sake of speed. (tourism as a source of income??).

  • Mattwhall

    The north/south trade from the great lakes to the new factories of the South are Ohio’s main economic connections these days. Ohio’s fortunes are connected the fortunes of canada, michigan, kentucky, tennessee, and georgia, not Illinois or New York.

  • PRobPGH

    Isn’t context the whole point? Recognizing the importance of interstate commerce, from a real estate perspective that location has more value to a.community as a place for people – not trucks. This is further supported by the availability of many other limited access highway routes to and from all points of the compass. Within the lakefront context, the value of people-scaled infrastructure is simply being recognized.

    Depending on your audience congestion can also mean “traffic calming” and “safety” which are more valuable to people locally than convenience and limited access. Cities and neighborhoods are places for people, not just cars. The freedom to move about must also include bikes, pedestrians and transit – given ample protection from distracted drivers.

  • OH Bike Commuter

    Its going to be a very long 3 more years until voters have a chance to clean out the Governor’s office mess. Starting with giving back the 3C Rail federal stimulus money, its been downhill ever since. The gov doesn’t really get what Ohio is about, he just wants to punish his enemies and those with liberal ideas about community, transportation, energy, etc. He is giving his buddies extra handouts and raises and declaring poverty while defunding local governments. And the Republican state assembly comports with it. What a mess. Luckily our cities are flat and built on the grid so we can bike to work if we are so moved.

  • Bilbobaggins

    Wasn’t the new head of ODOT (appointed by Kasick) a lobbyist for the asphalt industry?

  • “A project that has already generated almost half a billion dollars in investment got awarded zero points for economic development. Zero!”  And it did not acknowledge the impact from the new Ohio to Erie Trail, an off-road trail connecting the Ohio River to Lake Erie.  Ever heard of bicycle tourism?   These people need places for food and lodging.  http://www.ohiotoerietrail.org/

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