This story made my day. In my opinion, multi-modal transportation is exactly what Ohio needs to provide affordable transportation, healthier communities, attract an educated, creative work force, and create economic development. Okay, maybe as a transportation engineer/planner I’m being a little too idealistic about what transportation can do, but I really think it’s critical to creating a bright future for Ohio.
Transportation-policy group sees trains, bikes, boats in Ohio’s future
Thursday, May 8, 2008 3:12 AM
By James Nash
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Cars still may be king in Ohio, but James Beasley says that needs to change.
Beasley, the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation since March 2007, outlined a vision of a less car-centric state at a summit yesterday to plan Ohio’s transportation future.
Trains could carry more passengers and freight. Rivers aren’t used to their potential as conduits of goods. Even bikes ought to be seen as a means to commute rather than simply as recreation.
Those points were raised during the first meeting of the Ohio 21st Century Transportation Priorities Task Force, a 62-member panel that’s supposed to sketch the future of transportation in the state.
The buzzword was “multimodal” — a seamless web of roads, airports, rail lines, bus and bike routes, and even boats.
“I would definitely say it’s a big policy change,” Beasley said. “We’re talking multimodal. There are many choices toward moving people and freight.”
About 250 people attended the summit at the Ohio Department of Transportation headquarters. They included local officials from throughout the state, economic-development leaders, building contractors, a handful of environmentalists and at least one Ohio resident.
The proceedings were shadowed by the high cost of gas and its one-two punch to transit planning in Ohio. Higher oil prices drive up the cost of construction — both to buy asphalt and to operate equipment — and discourage people from buying as much fuel. Gasoline is taxed by the gallon, not by price.
Those factors and others, such as Ohio’s sagging economy, make a case for broad changes to transportation planning rather than a few tweaks, said Ty Marsh, president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the statewide transportation panel.
“We’re not talking about a better way to fix potholes,” he said. “We’re talking about a broad vision for our transportation system aligned for growth and prosperity.”
Beasley, with the support of Gov. Ted Strickland, has been nudging the state transportation agency toward a more rail-friendly future. Beasley appointed Jolene Molitoris, the chairwoman of the Ohio Rail Development Commission and a former federal railroad administrator, as his assistant director in March.
Strickland, speaking at yesterday’s summit, also suggested that big changes are afoot.
“This isn’t about doing a little more or a little less than what we’ve always done,” the governor said.