Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Extending Atwater Avenue

The city of Bloomington is considering upgrades to Atwater Avenue in hopes of improving traffic flow. At a recent meeting on the plan, neighborhood residents told the city that what they wanted was less traffic, not more, and that the city should be looking for ways to impede traffic. This is not surprising. People living on Atwater have legitimate concerns about safety, convenience, and noise. It is classic "not in my back yard" (NIMBY) politics.

I'm sure the city anticipated this, despite the smart-aleck editorial in Friday's Herald-Times. The city did not have "the wrong problem in mind"; the city presented a plan that would be an overall benefit to the entire city. Not everyone will benefit from increasing and improving traffic flow on Atwater. Some will be inconvenienced or harmed. But the city engineering department, the City Council, and Mayor Kruzan are obligated to consider what would benefit the greatest number of people. While city government must listen to and respect the views of Atwater residents, their objections cannot be allowed to kill this needed project.

When Fred Prall ran for mayor in 2003, a consistent theme of his campaign was a lack of good thoroughfares through Bloomington, especially from east to west. Third street backs up greatly during the school year, and Tenth Street is almost unusable during that time. (Interestingly enough, six years ago the city was considering a plan to improve traffic flow by making Tenth into a one way street.) The bypass tends to get very backed up during "rush hour" as well, and there has been talk of making it four lanes for several years.

The Herald-Times did redeem itself, though, with a very good editorial in Sunday's paper that slapped down "peak oil" alarmists like Greg Travis. Given that Travis' influence has already resulted in a county vehicle fuel crisis, it is surprising that he is taken seriously at all. The automobile is not going away, and local government cannot do anything about "peak oil" anyway. For the long term health of our local economy, we still need good transportation infrastructure.