By Scott Tibbs, October 4, 2011
Repeat after me: There is absolutely nothing that Bloomington can do about peak oil. Got it? Good.
Three Bloomington city councilors are working to reduce the scope of proposed roundabouts because they encourage "urban sprawl" and because they conflict with the vision of the Peak Oil Task Force.
One of the roundabouts is at 17th and Arlington and the other is at Tapp and Rockport. The first I travel occasionally and the second one I travel through at least weekly. The 17th Street roundabout is badly needed to improve safety, because the abominable design of that intersection leads to confusion about right of way and has caused accidents. The Tapp and Rockport roundabout would significantly improve traffic flow at one of the worst intersections in Bloomington, especially during evening rush hour. Sare and Rogers is also a mess.
First, we need to recognize the structural realities of our economy. One of those realities is that the automobile not going anywhere. Even if we move away from gasoline-fueled automobiles eventually, there will be alternative technologies that will allow continued use of automobiles in the future - because the market demands it. Whether that is the electric car (though range will have to be significantly improved) or hydrogen fuel cells or something else, there will be something that will allow continued fast and long-distance autonomous transportation via the automobile.
The 17th Street roundabout, in my opinion, is not even about allowing more traffic flow, but making it safer for traffic and reducing the number of accidents. Anyone who has attempted to travel from west 17th through that intersection knows how dangerous it can be. I can't imagine what the reasoning was behind creating that mess in the first place. This is a basic safety issue and should not be held hostage by an environmentalist agenda that does not consider the brick-and-mortar needs of Bloomington's population.
Even having a Peak Oil Task Force in Bloomington, Indiana is a waste of time. There is absolutely nothing Bloomington is going to do about peak oil, and it is the typical arrogance of academia that we think we actually matter on an issue of global reach like this one. Anyone who wants to have a meaningful impact on peak oil needs to do so at the national level, because a city of 70,000 is completely irrelevant.
The good news is that one of the obstructionists will be gone after the election, as she is not running again. The bad news is the other two obstructionists are unopposed in the city election due to the utterly pathetic state of the local Republican Party. If the local GOP can be rebuilt, perhaps we can at least get a little more influence to help move these necessary infrastructure improvements forward.