By Joe Baur
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has shown repeatedly they are not interested in funding alternative means of transportation. Despite being one of the most urbanized states in the country, Ohio continues to allocate a paltry $11 million annually to transit. This puts us near the bottom in transit funding nationally alongside sparsely populated states.
Yet what does ODOT have for us in the pipeline?
Widening I-271, I-71, and a three-mile highway extension through largely car-free neighborhoods called the Opportunity Corridor – all auto-oriented projects that undermine transit despite tight budgets and a decrease in miles driven nationally and statewide. All this on top of nearly $2 billion to rebuild a 1950s highway better known as the Innerbelt.
These projects have received scant, if any, criticism from ODOT officials, media or elected officials. But $400 million from the federal government to build passenger rail was eviscerated unlike any highway project.
So how to get ODOT’s attention? This remains the holy grail of Ohio transportation. However Tim Kovach, my new favorite Cleveland environmentalist, has a brilliant suggestion:
Publicly shame ODOT into doing the right thing.
ODOT has yet to respond to reasoned thinking. Anyone from the Cincinnati suburbs to our very own can see that ODOT is not equitably funding alternative transportation. Others might know that our infrastructure is crumbling, we cannot afford it, and we are that much unhealthier – physically, economically and environmentally – because of the transportation system ODOT has given us.
Still the public has been as silent on transit as Governor John Kasich and his Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald. Why Mr. FitzGerald has yet to champion this obvious inequality is beyond me.
In a recent post at his website timkovach.com, Mr. Kovach offered visual evidence of the dangerous situation ODOT’s “infatuation with sprawl” leaves for Clevelanders. Here’s his breakdown of the image, which is a snapshot of an RTA bus stop on Route 237.
“Route 237 is a restricted-access highway with a 50mph speed limit. In other words, you aren’t even allowed to walk or bike on the road due to the dangerous speed at which traffic moves, but you can wait for a bus 3 feet away from passing cars. And if you need to cross to the other side of 237 for any reason, keep dreaming. There’s no intersection anywhere near it. I don’t know if anyone has been killed or injured waiting for a bus here, but if not, it’s just a matter of time. Ohio has completely abrogated its responsibility to fund alternate transportation, and the end result is this kind of nightmare for public safety.”
This is just one in a plethora of example’s where ODOT’s development strategy has put Ohioans both in and out of a vehicle in tremendous danger.
Anyone at ODOT seeing this image ought to feel ashamed. How do these thoroughfares help move Ohio forward? How do they keep us economically sound? How the hell are people outside of cars supposed to get around efficiently and safely?
While I would much rather solve the state’s transportation woes like adults, ODOT does not seem interested in changing their irresponsible habits. Perhaps Kovach is right when he says, “Maybe we can shame ODOT into changing its reckless ways.” Though he does immediately concede, “Probably not.”
But I think it’s worth a shot. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? Ohio continues to get strangled by increasingly widened highways built with make believe money? That’s already our reality.
Kovach offers to accept photos or comments highlighting the worst and most dangerous bus stops in Northeast Ohio. I’m going to go a step further and include dangerous crosswalks. So excuse me while I take my camera out onto Carnegie Avenue in Downtown Cleveland where drivers pouring off the highway blow by the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit sign.
Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at http://JoeBaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe.