Public Information Meeting on 2018-2021 Transportation Projects Tomorrow at 5:30PM


B-Line Extension Project (Illustrative Only)

For whatever reason the City of Bloomington doesn’t have an official press release out yet, so I am trying to do whatever I can to publicize a public information meeting scheduled for tomorrow evening (Wednesday, March 29, 2017 at 5:30PM at the Downtown Bloomington Transit Center, corner of N. Walnut and E. Third Streets) sponsored by the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMCMPO). This meeting will provide the public with information and take feedback on the transportation projects being considered for the 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The MPO coordinates the allocation of Federal transportation funding coming into the area and includes projects from the City of Bloomington, Monroe County, INDOT, Bloomington Transit, Rural Transit, and IU Bus.

The proposed fiscal plan that is being presented to MPO committees is here: FY1821TIP_Memo_032217. This plan provides the breakdowns of local vs. federal funding by project/local agency and by fiscal year. It is just the starting point for discussions, and could change based on feedback from MPO committees and the public. This public information meeting provides one — but not the only — opportunity to provide feedback. But this memo only shows the financial breakdowns — it doesn’t actually provide any detail on the projects themselves.

I’m hoping that a more public-friendly version of the project descriptions can be made available soon — but for now all I could find is the packet for the MPO Policy Committee from February 10, 2017. I extracted the relevant section here: MPO Policy Committee Project Descriptions From 2017-02-10 (warning: it is a pretty big document!).

There are several projects that I think the public will be particularly interested, including the County’s Fullerton Pike project (Phases 1 and 2), the County’s proposed roundabouts to improve safety at Curry Pike/Woodyard Road/Smith Pike, the City’s Tapp Road & Rockport Road Intersection project, Henderson Street, Winslow Road, and Jackson Creek trail projects, and the project I’m most excited about — a proposed extension of the B-Line trail west, to connect to the multi-use path going over I-69 at 17th Street and ultimately connecting to the County’s Karst Farm Greenway.

Hope to see members of the public at the meeting!

Here’s a draft of a press release from the MPO:

“The Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMCMPO) will hold a Public Information Meeting with the goal of gaining public input for development of the Fiscal Year 2018-2021 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The TIP documents a comprehensive fiscally-constrained list of multi-modal federal-aid transportation projects programmed for Bloomington, Bloomington Transit, Ellettsville, INDOT, Indiana University Transit, Monroe County, and Rural Transit.

The Public Information Meeting will be held on Wednesday, March 29, 2017 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Downtown Bloomington Transit Center, located at the corner of N. Walnut and E. Third Streets.

Development of the new TIP requires a public involvement process which includes a public review by the BMCMPO Citizens Advisory Committee, the Technical Advisory Committee, and adoption by the Policy Committee before submission to state and federal agencies.

Public Meeting attendees will provide feedback on the proposed list of TIP projects and to help shape the project funding priorities of the MPO for the next three (3) years. The BMCMPO staff looks forward to discussing these and other important transportation issues with residents at the public meeting.

For more information or written comments on the FY 2018-2021 TIP, please contact BMCMPO Director Josh Desmond at 812.349.3423 or”

2015 TIGER Grant Awards Include Complete Streets and Intermodal Shipping for Louisville Area

Bill Williams Bridge in Stinesville IN
Bill Williams Bridge in Stinesville IN

On Thursday, the US Department of Transportation announced their 2015 awards for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. TIGER is a competitive grant program that awards nearly $500 million annually for major transportation infrastructure investments that support the key transportation goals of safety, innovation, and opportunity.

The Louisville area was the clear winner in our region from this year’s round of awards.

The Louisville Metro Government (a unified city-county government, similar to Indianapolis-Marion County) was awarded $16,910,000 for the Transforming Dixie Highway project, a series of complete streets improvements along the Dixie Highway corridor. Following is the project description:

This TIGER grant will provide funding to install Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) upgrades (including transit signal priority), and complete streets improvements along approximately 15 miles of the Dixie Highway corridor, a congested regional transportation corridor. The ITS improvements include transit signal priority equipment and signal phasing improvements to prioritize transit. The complete streets roadway and safety improvements include pedestrian facilities, intersection improvements, and new roadside urban design elements including raised medians and driveway consolidations, turn lanes, signage, and striping upgrades.

In addition, the Ports of Indiana in Jeffersonville, right across the Ohio River from Louisville, was awarded $10M for a truck-rail-water intermodal shipping facility. Here is the project description:

This TIGER grant will provide funding to construct a double rail loop and rail-to-barge transfer facility with additional rail and turnouts. The project also includes construction of a nearly mile-long rail siding extension that will allow rail carriers to deliver a 90-car unit train to the port. The project will also construct a truck-to-rail intermodal facility in the vicinity of Connector Road to accommodate increasing truck traffic expected from the East End Bridge over the Ohio River.

This was the only award in the state of Indiana.

Monroe County is no stranger to TIGER grants, however. Back in 2012, Monroe County was awarded $3,126,250 for replacement of the Stinesville Bridge, a functionally obsolete bridge with a dangerous approach that would routinely have to be closed when Jack’s Defeat Creek flooded. The bridge was renamed Bill Williams Bridge by the Stinesville Town Board, in honor of long-time (and now former) Monroe County Highway Director Bill Williams.

Here are a couple of pictures from the ribbon-cutting of the TIGER-funded Bill Williams bridge on September 25, 2014:

Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge
Ribbon-Cutting for Bill Williams Bridge

Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for Westside Economic Development Area Placemaking and Aesthetics Released

Happy New Year, IN-53 MoCoGov readers!

This past December 17th, the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in order to identify a consultant who can assist us in placemaking and aesthetic improvements for the Westside Economic Development Area.

The introduction for the RFQ reads as follows:

The Monroe County Redevelopment Commission is seeking the services of qualified firms to provide assistance for placemaking, including aesthetic and functional upgrading/improvement of gateways, of the Westside Economic Development Area (WEDA).

Since its establishment in 1993, the Monroe County Westside Economic Development Area (WEDA)—also known as the Westside TIF or the Richland TIF—has been the site of significant economic development for the unincorporated area of the county, and serves as the site for many of Monroe County’s largest employers, including Cook, Baxter Pharmaceuticals, TASUS, Printpack, and Ivy Tech Community College. With the addition of several public amenities, including Will Detmer Park, the Indiana Center for the Life Sciences, the Northwest YMCA, and the Karst Greenway (a multiuse trail running through the area), the WEDA is also seeing and will continue to see a significant number of visitors (community residents) beyond the employees of the businesses in the WEDA.

The following map illustrates the boundaries of the WEDA:


The vision for this project is to give the WEDA a sense of place and a distinctive aesthetic treatment that will further its strengths as a local center of employment and mark it as an attractive, desirable place for residents, visitors, and prospective businesses.

I have advocated for this effort for a long time, and have written about the Westside Economic Development Area here and here, and thank the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission for supporting this effort.

The full RFQ is available here: WEDA RFQ 2014-12-23

Responses are due at or before 3PM, January 30, 2015. Here is hoping for some good responses!

Environmental Assessment for Fullerton Pike Project Available

Last week I wrote about an upcoming public hearing for Monroe County’s Fullerton Pike Project scheduled for December 11, 2014 at 6PM at the Nat U Hill Room of the Monroe County Courthouse. The public hearing will give members of the public an opportunity to learn more about the project, get their questions answered, and make their voices heard.

The Monroe County Highway Department has just made the draft version of the Environmental Assessment for the project available on its Web site here:

An Environmental Assessment is a requirement of the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) and is document whose purpose is to examine the significance of environmental effects and to look at alternative means to achieve the objectives of a particular governmental agency or project.

The Environmental Assessment is divided into 7 sections, all of which are fairly large PDF files. The most important to read is the first one, which provides an extensive description of the project and all alternatives that were considered.

Incidentally, i have heard from many constituents who think that the whole public input process is a sham — that citizen input doesn’t matter. I will say that nothing is further from the truth. Citizen input has already had a substantial effect on this project. When the project was first proposed, it was proposed as a 5-lane road. Input from residents resulted in the project being reduced from a 5-lane road to a 3-lane road (1 travel lane in each direction plus turn lanes as needed). This was a huge change in the scope of the project — all because of the input from citizens.

Hope to see you at the public hearing!

Raise the Federal Gas Tax?

HighwaysJosh Voorhees from Slate just wrote a must-read article on the poor condition of our country’s road infrastructure (18th in the World Economic Forum, behind Saudi Arabia and Luxemburg), and the failure of our leaders on both sides of the aisle to be willing to address a long-term solution: The Solution That Shall Not Be Named.

In particular, Voorhees points out that it is almost universally understood among lawmakers that the current federal gas tax rate of 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline (24.4 cents per gallon of diesel) is not nearly enough even to keep the federal highway trust fund from going broke, much less actually funding our infrastructure at a level at which repairs and replacements keep up with wear and tear. However, at the same time, almost every legislator (and representative of the executive branch) refuses to exhibit the political will to even publicly consider a desperately needed increase.

Read the article — and then defend the current political cowardice that has led to a nation of crumbling roads and bridges.

Just for a quick recap of the history of our federal gas tax:

  • 1.5 cents, June 1933 (National Industrial Recovery Act, President Hoover)
  • 1 cent, January 1934 (Revenue Act of 1934)
  • 1.5 cents, July 1940
  • 2 cents, November 1951 (Revenue Act of 1951)
  • 3 cents, July 1956 (Highway Revenue Act of 1956)
  • 4 cents, October 1959 (Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1959)
  • 9 cents, April 1983 (Surface Transportation Assistance Act of 1982, President Reagan)
  • 9.1 cents, January 1987 (Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986)
  • 9 cents, September 1990 (Superfund leaking underground storage tanks trust fund achieved its revenue goals)
  • 14.1 cents, December 1990 (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1990, President H.W. Bush)
  • 18.4 cents, October 1993 (Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993, President Clinton)
  • 18.3 cents, January 1996 (Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, President Clinton)
  • 18.4 cents, October 1997 (Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund reinstatement)

Also, to put the federal gas tax in context of the total cost of gasoline, in Indiana, for each gallon purchased, a motorist pays:

  • The retail price of the fuel
  • 7% Indiana gross retail sales tax on the retail price of the fuel
  • 18.4 cents Federal gas tax
  • 18 cents Indiana gas tax

For a little more context on the various taxes on fuel, see my previous blog posts Gas Taxes in Indiana and Gas Taxes in Indiana Part 2.