Mayor Kruzan sent this widely-distributed email when he learned that the Bloomington Economic Development Commission was considering joining the Bloomington Chamber of Commerce in support of the bypass widening project. The Bloomington Chamber of Commerce had advised INDOT to disregard both the citizens of Bloomington and our elected officials and widen the bypass without our input. Kruzan hits the nail on the head.
Without further ado.
From: Mark Kruzan (mayor at bloomington)
Date: July 24, 2009 4:16:55 PM EDT
I'm afraid BEDC and the Chamber have fallen into the antiquated thinking that more pavement equals progress. It's shortsighted to push for Bypass widening at any cost. Speaking bluntly, I am shocked at the notion that a responsible local organization would write INDOT stating, "we support the current design of the project... ." Expressing concern about delays is understandable; giving a blanket endorsement of the project is not.
A 1970's roadway design isn't appropriate for a 21st Century project. The City is simply seeking to incorporate at least some improvements for the thousands of pedestrians and bicyclists who live north and east of the Bypass. Had INDOT responded to numerous requests throughout many years, there would be no need for the self-imposed delay it has instituted.
I truly don't believe most city residents are aware of what they would be getting if the Bypass was widened without the improvements city government is requesting.
We seek enhanced pedestrian crossings at 10th and 3rd Street intersections with the Bypass. Three out of four approaches at 10th & the Bypass will be widened to 6 lanes. One approach will become 7 lanes wide. That widening poses a significantly more intimidating presence - especially to the disabled, pedestrians, bicyclists and even to motorists. The 3rd Street intersection, already difficult to cross, will only become more so. Few people realize that every approach at 3rd & the Bypass will be widened to 7 lanes with 1 right turn lane, 2 left turn lanes, and 4 thru lanes coming from each direction (including the College Mall Road side, which is state-, not locally-controlled).
INDOT makes a compelling case that islands may pose problems, but we would like other signage, lighting, audible pedestrian-activated push button signals, and striping considerations to be made to provide maximum safety for our residents.
Bike-ped lanes will adjoin the widened highway with no buffer between vehicular and non-vehicular traffic. There are better and certainly safer ways to make the road work for everyone. There is also a section from Dunn to 14th currently planned to have no sidewalk even though there are sidewalks leading up to each street. That "missing link" makes no sense.
The City also seeks a landscaped median from Fee Lane to 3rd Street. This improvement may seem minor until you consider that this corridor will be the entryway into new campus areas, and that we have to live with whatever is built for decades to come. The aesthetic difference between the Bypass' grassed median west of SR37 and the concrete median east of SR37 into Bloomington is worth noting and is why this issue is of importance. Additionally, it should be remembered that the Bypass' widening is going to destroy much of the natural setting along its corridor. Residents living along the Bypass, in addition to their concerns about increased noise, are worried about worsening runoff problems. Less pavement saves money upfront and reduces flooding risks long-term.
We're also working with Bloomington Transit to better move buses along 10th Street, especially at the Bypass.
We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something more than running a state highway through our community, and the changes we're seeking can help achieve that goal. The livability of Bloomington should be everyone's focus.
Quality of life, including promoting non-vehicular transportation and mass transit, is key to attracting and retaining employees who will power research and technology sector employment in Bloomington. We hope to see hundreds if not thousands of new jobs created at 10th & the Bypass. Those new workers should be able to get to and from campus and Downtown without relying upon their vehicles to do so safely. More pavement alone isn't the route to prosperity.
There has been and is no reason that the Bypass plans cannot include accommodations to keep it from dividing the community along its path. I understand the desire to see the Bypass project begin. The City has committed a million dollars in utility relocation funds for when that happens and has devoted significant staff hours to the project. The Chamber and BEDC, of course, have expended great effort to advance the project. I don't know, though, that the Chamber or BEDC have done anything to promote pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transportation along or across the Bypass corridor and would encourage both organizations to do so.
Both business groups have hundreds of members who, along with their families, will benefit from the Bypass project being done right rather than simply being done right now.