Photograph by Linda Greene

Bloomington citizens on Aug. 20 held their third protest against INDOT's expansion of the 45-46 Bypass around Bloomington. They say the project isn't needed and that the money can be better spent on more pressing priorities.

“It is not too late!!! Ask for a redesign of this project!” Those were the messages 30 citizens with signs tried to convey to people driving on the SR 45/46 Bypass from 4 to 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 20, on the northeast corner of Fee Lane and the Bypass.

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) has begun work on widening the bypass, over citizens’ objections for the last 20 years. The citizens claim that the bypass design is outmoded. It would encourage the use of more cars when, because of global climate change, we should be putting money into public transportation, not cars, one of the largest contributors to climate change.

According to Marge Steiner, who attended the demonstration, “This bypass widening is an ill-conceived idea. I’m a visually impaired person (VIP), and I don’t feel safe crossing the bypass now. I don’t think they’re taking into account pedestrians, especially VIPs. … People like me are totally forgotten in this whole thing. All bicyclists and pedestrians are being ignored.”

“In a time of global warming,” she continued, “we should be getting away from oil dependence, and this is precisely the wrong approach. … I don’t think this is the right direction to go if we’re thinking of quality of life. We need better public transportation, sidewalks and bicycle lanes [plus] walkable communities. If you’re in your car all the time and there are no sidewalks, you can’t interact with your neighbors.”
"We need public mass transportation." - Ann Kreilkamp
“In a walkable community,” Steiner concluded, “you can build community if you can be in verbal and visual contact with your neighbors.”

This was the latest protest against the current highway expansion design in an attempt to revise and improve it. According to a co-organizer of the protest, Ann Kreilkamp, this demonstration was the third in three weeks. The first, she said, had only three people; the second had six. She was gratified that so many joined for the third protest. She pointed out that “the project had been in the works for 20 years, and the last public comment period was 10 years ago.”

Kreilkamp attended a three-day meeting called by City Council Member Steve Volan and said the group had come up with a plan consistent with the one Bloomington Transportation for People (B-TOP), a local citizens’ organization, described in its recent report, Bypassing Good Judgment.

As long-time activist Deborah Robinson put it, the current design is an “old vision” and “old model.” Going through with the old design, which doesn’t meet our present and future needs, makes no sense, she said. “We need public mass transportation,” she said, like the trolleys she rode as a child in Kansas City.

Ian Martin said, “I’m here for the people, man,” referring to two friends who attended the demo and encouraged him to join them. “I believe in standing up for what’s right,” he continued. He just moved to Bloomington from Indianapolis and said the town is “perfect the way it is.” He sees this kind of construction in Indianapolis all the time, and it makes him angry.

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In a flyer they passed out at the protest, the organizers made eight points the public should know about the Bypass project:
"In a walkable community, you can build community if you can be in verbal and visual contact with your neighbors." - Marge Steiner

1. If the excessive expansion of the bypass is modified, the
savings would be large, $8 million vs. $24 million.

2. The current plan is to greatly widen the three miles of road between North Walnut Street and East Third Street. “This is counter to community goals of increasing walking, biking and transit.”

3. If the currrent plan is carried out, the “road will be a safety threat and a barrier for people who are walking and biking because of the greatly increased width (in some places 120 feet to cross!) and a design speed of 70 miles per hour.”

4. Both the city council and mayor have spoken out against the present design.

5. INDOT has designed a high-speed highway for twice the current traffic: the traffic has amounted to 25,000 or fewer trips per day for the last 15 years. “This expansion is not needed, is a waste of taxpayer money and a horrible thing to live next to!”

6. The design is outmoded. “INDOT’s high-speed design was first conceived 20 years ago, when the area was rural. Now the bypass is within an urban area, completely contained in Bloomington City limits, surrounded by homes, churches, IU campus.” INDOT has refused to re-evaluate the design.

7. INDOT hasn’t analyzed the current traffic situation and how problems with traffic flow could be addressed in a way that’s responsive to the community’s wishes. In Bypassing Good Judgment, B-TOP evaluated the design. “B-TOP found that problems with the road and traffic can be solved at one-third cost, without ruining the urban environment, hurting property values, or cutting down the approx. Five hundred trees marked for removal.”

8. Replacing the tree canopy with asphalt between Fee Lane and 10th Street “will destroy the beauty of the corridor, will take away the noise/sight buffer for IU housing, increase temperatures and create problems with water runoff.”

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The organizers suggest calling Gov. Daniels (317.232.4567, fax 317.283.1201), INDOT Commissioner Michael Cline (317-232-5525), U.S. representative Baron Hill (336-3000), State Representative Matt Pierce (800.382.9842) and State Senator Vi Simpson (800.382.9467).

The protestors held a similar demonstration on Friday the 27th and plan to switch to other tactics afterwards.

Linda Greene can be reached at lgreene@bloomington.in.us.