Adversarial attitudes hurt transportation

October 11, 2014

IBJ’s [Oct. 6] article “Highway interests covetous of funding” did a good job of pointing out the challenges of funding transportation in today’s environment. The IBJ did more than simply report on the blue ribbon panel review of transportation-related taxes and fees; it also highlighted that many factors must be considered if we are to use our limited transportation resources wisely.

One of the biggest challenges facing elected officials and transportation planners is how to allocate funding for a changing world. Public transportation is a part of this transition. People and communities across the nation are shifting away from old transportation objectives and models—building roads to move cars—and toward a new perspective, one that Metropolitan Planning Organization Executive Director Anna Gremling described as the “holistic view of moving goods and people.” As such, it is important that we plan a transportation system for evolving communities.

At the same time, we must recognize very tangible needs in our current infrastructure. Most notably, many of our bridges are in serious decay. Some roadways are dangerously deteriorated. We would not, in any scenario, suggest that those needs be neglected.

Unfortunately, as the story demonstrates, so much of the transportation debate has become an argument of roads versus non-road funding. The fact that the panel suggested separating transportation-related taxes and fees from other funding, specifically stating that federal and state highway funds should not be spent on mass transit or other non-road projects, enhances battle lines that have already been drawn.

An “us-versus-them” approach is a formula for long-term failure. We have to embrace a bigger-picture view of transportation, recognizing that road and transit interests are complementary, not adversarial. We’ve got to erase the battle lines and collaborate for a long-term balanced transportation portfolio that will create a sustainable, affordable and resilient system of multimodal transportation.

We at Central Indiana Regional Transit Authority hope that this report will not be the end of the conversation, but, rather, the foundation for a discussion about the future of transportation in Indiana, and about how we can pull the various interests and objectives together into a truly holistic view of what it means to provide a transportation infrastructure that serves present needs and a sustainable future.

Andrew Gast-Bray, executive director, Central Indiana Regional Transportation Authority

Christine Altman, Hamilton County Commissioner

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