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In Energy-Uncertain Future, Indiana DOT Bets That Nothing Will Change

11:29 AM EDT on April 6, 2011

Imagine for a second what transportation will be like in 2035. Will fossil fuels have been replaced by some new, not-yet-discovered energy source? Will the near-monopoly of car-based transportation systems still be viable thanks to vastly more efficient vehicles? Or will the costs of car-dependence become prohibitive, leading more of us to prefer living closer to where we work and shop, so we can save time and money by relying on effective transit networks and our ability to walk and bike?

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The fact is, no one really knows for sure. But that doesn't stop state DOTs from making the one assumption that we all know to be false: that transportation will, on an economic and physical level, operate the same way in 2035 that it does today.

For evidence, we hold up the state of Indiana’s Long Range Transportation Plan. This document -- intended to guide transportation decisions for the next 25 years -- is a clear affirmation of the single-occupant-vehicle status quo, even at a time when growing fuel insecurity presents fundamental questions about the wisdom of the old system.

Urban Indy's Curt Ailes analyzed this document. Here's what he found:

Indiana is and continues to be a fraternity for road builders. The current legislative session has created a fantastic opportunity for conservatives to push a road centered planning and policy overhaul that further pushes the state into the 1950?s era thinking of road building and sprawl-based land use policy.

I pressed ctrl+f (yes I used a PC) and searched for the following terms and got the corresponding number of results:

Sidewalk: 1;

Complete Streets: 7 (there is a short section that basically says it is up to local governing bodies);

Light Rail: 1;

Streetcar: 0;

Bicycle: 19;

Highway: 110

With gasoline prices on the rise and [given the expense of] maintaining a vehicle ... this plan isn’t promoting anything that is reducing the cost of moving myself around the region. Additionally, with the proposed state budget cuts to mass transit, this [option] will get even more difficult. While I appreciate riding a bike, our region is far too sprawled for me to depend solely on pedals to get everywhere. Furthermore, Indianapolis is in fierce competition with other cities around the country to attract top-notch talent. Does this plan really provide communities with an edge in competing for jobs when gasoline prices are going up, and public transit funding is being cut; and road expansion seems to be the only agenda being advanced?

Urban Indy is asking readers to submit comments before the plan is finalized.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Transport Politic takes a snapshot of the Atlanta region at a crossroads, with a one-cent sales tax under consideration that could bring rail transit to new suburban frontiers. Exciting news from the heartland: the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation reports that candidates who made cycling part of their platform did well in last night's statewide election. And Baltimore Spokes lists the top reasons given by commuters in Arlington, Virginia for not biking.

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