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A new direction for the Innerbelt?

Marc Lefkowitz  |  04/22/09 @ 1:41pm

The Innerbelt Project stands to be the largest infrastructure investment in our lifetimes. Will it be an investment in sustainable urban growth (one of the framers' key goals) or will it only focus on moving traffic?

ODOT has released its environmental impact statement which claims that no major impacts will be felt. We argue that ODOT's framework and therefore the process has been flawed from the outset. This is an urban redevelopment, not a road building project. If ODOT were a sustainable transportation agency, its modeling would look beyond the flow of traffic on the highway to consider the impact that closing downtown ramps will have on air quality as cars stack up at the one remaining downtown exit. ODOT admits the ramp closing at Carnegie will impact on surface streets during rush hour and urban planners such as Tom Bier have noted it will lead to the granddaddy of all traffic snarls.

In a larger sense, we haven't once considered the role a sustainable long-range transportation plan has in shaping the Innerbelt. Has ODOT considered while adding more capacity for cars the Innerbelt may induce more sprawl and create more air pollution? We deserve better than what we're getting now. At minimum, we need to consider the impact of the Carnegie exit closing and insist on a signature Innerbelt Bridge with bike lanes. Read the case for bike lanes on the bridge,and a vision to handle the bulk of the region's transportation issues here. And leave your comments for ODOT here, or tell them in person at tonight's public meeting about the Innerbelt Environmental Impact Statement.

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