The article says the Fields-Ertel interchange on I-71 was constructed in the 1960s when bustling suburbs like Mason were, literally, mostly farm fields. Now, as every single driver who has ever experienced rush hour on I-71 knows all too well, the interchange is overwhelmed with traffic.
Key statistic from the article: "By 2015, officials estimate 66,650 vehicles will travel through the intersection of Mason-Montgomery and Fields Ertel roads in one day. By 2035, that jumps by 40 percent to 93,620 vehicles a day."
Sadly, the article does not put those numbers in much context. By comparison, the most optimistic ridership projections for the $110 million-and-counting Cincinnati streetcar project forecast a puny 3,700 trips per day in its first year. That's 18 times less than the 2015 traffic projected at Fields Ertel and 25 times less than the 2035 projection.
So if traffic matters, if the numbers of people actually using a piece of public transportation infrastructure matters, then the "ridership" at Fields Ertel would justify spending $1.9 billion to $2.7 billion to "fix." That's what would be proportionally "fair" from a political serve-the-constituents point of view. Yet, it seems unlikely that the Fields-Ertel job will ever see even $110 million.
Why is it that all levels of government -- federal, state and local -- have so utterly failed to address a road problem that has been steadily worsening for the past 20 years?
In one of the very, very few things that Gov. Kasich has done right: if there isn't money to spend on high-priority highway projects, there isn't money for streetcar boondoggles, either. But this Fields Ertel debacle is hardly Kasich's problem alone. Sadly, our federal lawmakers cannot manage to get money for the I-75 bridge, nor for the Fields Ertel fix, AND they cannot seem to stop the Obama administration from spending silly money on streetcars. Pretty useless, huh?
But I say the claims of lack of money are phony. I say fixing public roads is a fundamental part of the job of every politician. There may be lots of lame explanations -- but there is no excuse for the misplaced budgeting priorities that have allowed these chores to go undone for so long.
Then again, there also is very little accountability. If the very large numbers of suburban commuters living north of the city actually voted their self-interest, I say jobs like Fields Ertel would have been completed years ago. But instead, I'm hearing the voices of frustrated voters who long ago gave up hope of seeing politicians getting practical stuff done.
Why wasn't fixing Fields-Ertel considered a "shovel ready" project when Obama was tossing stimulus money around? Does someone want to seriously claim our road planners couldn't figure out how to put funds for Fields Ertel to good use?
Well, we all know why, don't we? For years and years, the population served by that highway exit has overwhelmingly voted Republican -- and Obama just isn't going to send a big pot of money to the GOP base. I "get" what Obama did. What amazes and amuses me is how those suburban voters have allowed so many of their own Republican "leaders" to screw them over for so long. Good luck getting a highway job done with that government-is-always-bad mantra.
So instead, we get newspaper articles quoting people who say they plan to move away because the traffic has gotten so bad. Maybe that person will "escape" to the reborn Over-the-Rhine. Heh.
Funny how nobody seems to notice how all that terrible traffic basically PROVES that public highway projects really do stir billions of dollars of private economic development -- by helping people live where they actually want to live, and thus attracting a variety of businesses to serve them without much further need for tax subsidy. Quite the contrast to the desperate little streetcar plan that might prompt some landlords to fix up a few old buildings during the next 30 years -- if the city gives away even more tax incentives to goose the work.
Sorry commuters. Until you step up to the ballot box, you are telling your "leaders" that you LIKE traffic jams. Maybe you need to elect a few tax-n-spenders. Or maybe you really don't care. Maybe telling women and gay people what to do with their bodies actually is more important to you than reducing the traffic jams that steal time away from the families you "value" so much.