Monday, May 30, 2011

Days Like Yesterday Are Why We Don't Need I-69

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Yesterday morning, I woke up extremely excited due to the fact that I had tickets to the Indianapolis 500, the greatest racing spectacle in the world. I've been to Indianapolis Motor Speedway several times but this was the first time I would be going to the race itself.

As most of you know, Evansville is stuck in regressive mode so we haven't been able to get any form of passenger rail transportation here whether it be light rail, high speed rail, or even AMTRAK. Therefore, I was forced to take my automobile to Indy. So I did figuring it would be no big deal.

I began the trip early at 5 am and was at least fortunate to reach my roommates hotel where he would be riding with me to the race. For those who haven't been to Indianapolis recently, take a ride to the Indianapolis Bypass (I-465) where it meets I-70 and you will see what kind of mess I-69 is going to be. You will see trees plowed over, concrete roads going all over the place, orange barrels galore, and dried up waterways that use to flow.

Anyways, as we were finally leaving the hotel, I drove just two roads away from the hotel before my car decides it's going to take the day off. Right in the middle of the road, I was forced to push my vehicle across three lanes of traffic (of course all the drivers were so friendly about it!). The only good thing about it was that it decided to die before I got in the middle of race traffic in Speedway. That could have gotten very ugly.

This car trouble has been no fluke or one-time occurrence. This has been the third time I have had a car quit on me while I was out of time. The two other times were....


Back in 2008, I decided to take a road trip with a couple of my old roommates to New York City to say good-bye to Shea and Yankee Stadiums. My uncle has an apartment in downtown Manhattan so I decided to make the 15 hour trek all the way into the center of NYC. By the time I made it to the enormous steep grades in the West Virginia mountains, my car had already been giving small signs that it wasn't going to stay running for the whole trip. The transmission was going sooner or later. Naturally, I made it all the way to the middle of Manhattan when the transmission decided to finally bite the dust.

I found a mechanic over in New Jersey who gave me the wonderful news that my car wasn't going anywhere for good. During the whole week I was up there waiting for my car to be diagnosed, I didn't miss it at all. I went to Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium, Brooklyn (future Barclays Center site), Harlem, and Ground Zero on the New York City subways. There wasn't one spot in the whole region I couldn't get to.

Once it was time to leave, I had to make the decision to send my old car (a Mercury Mystique) to the Jersey junkyard and buy another one (a Ford Contour). While I got lucky that I found a car that is basically the same style as my old one, it still cost me several thousand dollars that I had to borrow instantly. And it certainly wasn't easy explaining to the New Jersey or Kentucky (where I lived at the time) BMV's that I needed to switch plates. Both were just concerned with hitting me with as many taxes as possible.


I used to take one road trip with my old roommates from college and in 2009 we decided that we were going to take AMTRAK to Chicago where we would watch both a White Sox and a Cubs game on the same day. Since Evansville doesn't have AMTRAK, we had to drive all the way over to St. Louis to get on the train which we did.

On the way to St. Louis, I decided to stop in Illinois for gas. That was a huge mistake because when I shut the engine off, the starter went out. My buddy and I sat there for hours trying to get the car to work. Finally, after about two hours of just standing around wondering what we were going to do, the starter clicked over. We were then running behind schedule to catch the AMTRAK but we went flying into St.Louis to catch it (Thankfully some of those turns on I-64 have banking).

Naturally, right as we were pulling up the AMTRAK train was pulling out with the next train arriving 12 hours later. The only chance we had was to beat the train to its next stop in Alton, IL. We decided to try it (don't ask me why), and right as we're arriving the train is pulling out again.

However, AMTRAK has such great customer service. Already down the line a little bit, the conductor sitting in the back rail car sees us pulling up and stops the train. We were able to board the train outside of the station. I can't get over how incredibly nice that was of AMTRAK. That's how close I came to being stuck in the middle of nowhere due to the automobile.

Just like in NYC, we were easily able to get around Chicago without the car. In fact, Wrigley Field and US Cellular Field are on the same subway line. When we got back, we were very fortunate that the starter in the car started up one last time to get us back home to Evansville where I was able to round up a mechanic.

So, while building I-69 may look great to some on paper, the truth is, I-69 will just cause more headaches. If you're filthy rich, you may be saying, "No big deal, I got plenty of money to call a tow truck and take it to a mechanic." What you don't realize is that it's not that easy. Yesterday I was stuck in Indy on a holiday weekend. No mechanics and probably limited tow truck drivers, not to mention the fact that I didn't have a hotel up there as it was just a drive up/drive back trip.

When everything was said and done, I ended up spending over $200 borrowing my aunt's truck, gassing it up, putting a U-Haul tow-bar on it, and dragging it back home to the shop. I am now down to peanuts in my wallet. How many other people who drive to the Indy 500 will be in the same position as I was if they had car trouble?

Insurance companies, BMVs, gas prices, and car trouble are just a few of the many reasons why we do not need to be building anymore interstates. The whole ironic thing about it was the fact that while I was stranded on the side of the road, the C&P decides to produce another terrible pro-I-69 article...

Folks in Southwestern Indiana have long understood that any number of influential voices in Indianapolis don't give a whit what happens in this corner of the state. That attitude was best demonstrated in 2000 when the Indianapolis Star, the state's largest newspaper, called the then-proposed Interstate 69 highway between Evansville and Indianapolis the "highway to nowhere."
First it was Bloomington's fault now it's Indianapolis' fault that I-69 supporters aren't having their greedy way? Even Tom Brokaw put I-69 in his Fleecing of America segment on the NBC News. When you build a highway that trims less than 13 minutes off your total trip, that is indeed a highway to nowhere.

No surprise there. The attitude thing with Indianapolis has never been a secret, plus The Star has opposed the proposed highway for years, stating on occasion that the existing U.S. 41/Interstate-70 route would be preferable to them to a direct, new terrain route through Bloomington.
Isn't it funny how this interstate is suppose to be the best thing since sliced bread, yet Indianapolis and Bloomington are both against it? At least the rest of Indiana is looking at this project with some common sense.

We would expect no less nonsense from the jokers in Bloomington, but not from The Star newspaper. And yet, this past week, an editorial in the newspaper suggested the Bloomington delaying tactics offer the Daniels administration an opportunity to save $400 million, the cost of the highway between Crane and Bloomington.
Wait a minute. If Indianapolis has always been out to get Evansville, then why would we expect anything different? The truth is, no matter if you're in a college town or a major urban city, wasting money on a road from the 1950s doesn't make sense, especially when it will end up costing well over $5 billion.

And what is it with the C&P calling groups jokers and clowns? No wonder other cities don't care about Evansville. I still don't understand why we should be calling Bloomington clowns and jokers when we have stoplights on the Lloyd, destroyed our light rail system, and have let our downtown turn to ruins.

They point out that the new terrain route is opposed by city councils in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Martinsville and by thousands of petitioners concerned about property loss, environmental damage and sheer expense.

Do you suppose those same concerns were raised when Interstates 65, 70, 69 north, 74, and 465 were being planned through and around Indianapolis?
I'm starting to wonder if the C&P just copies and pastes the quotes in the comments section from those whose post under masked screen names. There are several problems with this comment....

1. Most of those interstates were built back when technology wasn't as great. This is like saying, "No one protested the Oregon Trail or Route 66 so why don't we build them now?"

2. A lot of interstates have been protested here in Indiana. Back in 2006, Mitch Daniels proposed an Indiana Commerce Corridor which would have been another loop around Indianapolis. Strong opposition from local residents and the then Democrat-controlled House of Representatives forced Governor Daniels to abandon the ICC plan on March 24, 2007. I-69 itself has been protested as well with the southern point originally being near the I-65/I-70 junction (it would have been I-165). As a result, I-69 ends 11 miles further north.

3. There's no question that we have a few duplicate interstates elsewhere so why didn't the C&P protest those? We can talk all we want about how one city is getting an interstate over another but the truth is, other cities wanted it more back in the 1950s just like they are wanting high speed rail more now. The C&P is setting us back 50 more years fighting for I-69.

4. There are already two roads you can use for I-69. They are US 41 and I-70. NOBODY would fight upgrading 41.

The editorial points out that direct route opponents still believe there is time to switch to U.S.41/I-70, that that route presents none of the concerns about direct I-69 going into Indianapolis, it believes that the economic case for the new terrain roadway over U.S. 41/I-70 never has been made, and that freeway construction has lost its favor over "the decades the I-69 extension has been hashed over."

If favor for freeways really had been lost, then why did they need to modernize I-465 in Indianapolis these past few years to the tune of $800 million, twice what the Crane to Bloomington leg would cost?
As I said earlier, I'm not happy about the I-465 renovation either, and I wish it would have been scrapped too, but lets be honest, the I-465 renovation is still better than building completely new terrain for I-69 and the Indiana Commerce Corridor which would have duplicated routes and destroyed much more of the environment. The Indy Star is right on the money: THE INTERSTATE ERA IS OVER!

With Major Moves, Daniels has given this state the opportunity for millions in infrastructure construction and modernization, at a time when many other states are paralyzed to do anything.
This is where the C&P and me are 180 degrees different. What good does it do to sell an interstate in northern Indiana for less that what it would have brought in in tolls, and then build more interstates that will make Indiana dependent on the automobile. You see, if we were to use our gas tax revenue smartly, building high speed rail would be very quick and easy. When you pay a gas tax or a toll, it should go towards improving your commute, not building more roads to keep you stuck with the auto system of the 20th century.

And he need not explain to the people of Southern Indiana the extraordinary steps he has taken to see that they are finally getting a modern highway to their state capital.
Modern highway? That's like clean coal or a healthy cigarette. It just doesn't exist. My story from yesterday is a perfect example of that!

One final point: Do they actually support the idea of building I-69 only as far as Crane, there to dead end, and then, we presume, to shift the project over to U.S. 41-I-70?

How utterly ridiculous that would be.
Sounds good to me. That would only save a few billion dollars, can't be having that. Didn't the C&P say that they wanted a safe commute for students going to IU? Well, now they will have that with State Road 37 going to Indianapolis as well. How is that any worse than the death trap that will be left for those going to Vincenness and Terre Haute? It's bad enough these first three segments have destroyed a lot of our environment, but let's not let it get any farther than that.

Overall, I am so sick and tired of seeing dollar after dollar going to interstates that aren't dependable when we can be investing in dependable high speed rail for the future. Yesterday's debacle would have NEVER happened if we had high speed rail or AMTRAK here. But if we build I-69, we can expect to see more residents broke down on the side of the road with no hope in sight. We can also expect to see crosses, wrecks, animals that have been run over, flooded farmland, loud semis, and a state still addicted to oil.

We simply cannot trust the automobile. We need RAILS NOT ROADS!

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Hot Air From I-69 Supporters

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I woke up today with the full intention of making a post about the many negative affects that urban sprawl is having on Evansville. However, that post will have to wait another day as I feel that we need to take a deep, deep look at the new editorial produced by the Courier & Press.

Whoever the masked man is behind the C&P editorials is desperate beyond desperate to spread as much I-69 propaganda as humanely possible despite the obvious facts that this road is nothing more than a boondoggle.

Today, they produced another pro-I-69 editorial that just makes you want to shake your head. Let's take a look...

First of all, the fact that this editorial is even being written is due to the great leadership shown by the city of Bloomington in making the correct decision of leaving I-69 out of their budget. My hat's off to the city of Bloomington, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads. There are some battles you shouldn't fight even if you win, but there are some battles you should fight even if you lose. That battle is I-69 and it takes quite a bit of courage for these groups to step up to all the pressure from INDOT, Evansville, Indianapolis, and interstate supporters all across the land. This type of leadership is what you have to have if you are ever going to get your city moving forward. I'm thrilled beyond thrilled that Bloomington rejected I-69.

Let's take a look at some of the editorial's comments...

"OK guys, if you are going to try and prevent the state from running Interstate 69 through the Bloomington area, then you are going to have to give back the state's university — you can't have one and not the other.

We're kidding, of course, but this seems an appropriate response to the latest antics by the clowns who do transportation planning in Bloomington."
I take them at their word that they are kidding about proposing the relocation of IU from Bloomington, but the fact that that even crossed their mind shows you just how off base I-69 supporters are. This is an idea you would find in the comments section under an unknown screen name.

If an interstate is so crucial to the viability of a college/university, than how is Indiana University continuing to grow by leaps and bounds? And if I-69 bypasses Bloomington, how would that be any different than I-69 bypassing downtown Evansville and western Evansville where our fastest growing university (USI) is located?

I really don't think it's wise to call another town's planners clowns when our very own city has stoplights all over the Lloyd Expressway and U.S 41 (which would have been fixed with an upgraded U.S 41). And let's not forget that our very own town had a nice light rail system on Franklin Street, a grand L&N Station, and a vibrant Main Street. While other cities have turned their buildings and light rail systems into crown jewels of their regions, our local "clowns" destroyed every thing we had with little regard for our city. We have a major pal over Evansville and until we lift this pal, it isn't wise to label any other town's planners clowns.

"According to the Associated Press, Bloomington City Council member Andy Ruff, also a member of the planning group, said Monroe County residents have unresolved questions on the road's funding, the location of interchanges and the environment. (Don't forget, Indiana conducted one of the most comprehensive environmental studies ever done anywhere before launching this vital project"
Well let's see, I-69 planners have raised the estimated cost of the interstate from a billion and change to now $3.31 billion (doesn't include Ohio River bridge(s), maintenance, or costs to replace inferior materials), they have finally admitted that they will have to purchase almost 6,000 acres of farmland that will flood, it will destroy a total of 3,741 acres of farmland, and 1,815 acres of forest will be lost. Over 7,000 acres will be paved over by construction ( ). Wouldn't you say that is quite an environmental impact for a road that is expected to only save you 15 minutes or less of drive time?

It gets even worse. Due to the fact that INDOT does not have enough funding to complete the entire I-69, they have had to start making drastic cuts. INDOT has announced that it will pursue various cost-cutting measures – delayed/cancelled overpasses and rest stops, narrowed shoulders and medians, steeper grades, and thinner surface materials. Any city that is wise, should be concerned about I-69's lack of funding, cheap construction designs, and environmental impact.

"There's more: Ruff said, according to The Herald Times, "There comes a time when you stand up to a bully. it is time to stand up for ourselves."

Readers of the Courier & Press should take note: When Ruff talks about "the bully," he is talking about the people of Southwestern Indiana who want and need this highway."
No, Mr. Ruff is talking about those who truly are bullies, and that is those who support I-69. I-69 supporters are desperate to build their boondoggle and will throw anyone under the bus (no pun intended). So far they have...

- Taken $700 million from Major Moves which was acquired through the selling of a toll road in Northern Indiana. In other words, Northern Indiana pays the toll while Southern Indiana reaps the benefits.

- Ignored almost all of the environmental impacts of the interstate.

- Refused to upgrade the death trap that is US 41 from Evansville to Terre Haute, leaving those who commute to Vincennes University and Indiana State University exposed to a highly dangerous road.

- Refused to consider high speed rail for Southwestern Indiana.

- Cheapened the design of the interstate so that future taxpayers will be stuck with a hefty bill to properly upgrade the interstate in the future

That is the bullies Mr. Ruff is referring to. What really is frustrating about the whole process is that everyone could have won out of this project if the I-69 supporters would not have been greedy. Washington, Indiana, Petersburg, Indiana, and most other areas that are on the proposed New Terrain I-69 are within 20-30 miles of US 41....

Depending on where you live here in Evansville, it will take you a good 15-20 miles minimum to reach I-64. We could have upgraded U.S 41 all the way to Terre Haute and then built a side spur from Vincennes or Sullivan to Bloomington. That would have eliminated almost all of the new terrain in the first 3 segments which run parallel to U.S 41 only 20-30 miles away.

"He is talking about Indiana University students and their parents who must worry each time they make the trip to Bloomington on narrow, curvy roads they share with coal trucks and slow-moving farm equipment.

He is talking about the folks in Petersburg and Washington who may need to see a medical specialist in Indianapolis and are concerned about getting there safely.

He is talking about high school band members from Newburgh or Evansville who travel by bus for competition in Indianapolis and hope to make it there without accident."
Again, what about those traveling to Vincennes? What about those traveling to Terre Haute? If the C&P is genuinely concerned about safety, why are they proposing to build an interstate which will make us dependent on the automobile? The automobile kills over 30,000 people a year. Building an interstate from the 1950s isn't the solution to safety, High Speed Rail is!

High Speed Rail is the answer to all of our problems we face with the automobile. It's quicker, cleaner, greener, safer, cheaper, nicer, and produces many,many more jobs while raising property values around it. High speed rail is the transportation solution of the 21st century. Not only will it get you there safely, it will also get you there fast at over 220 mph. If we build high speed rail, we will have people living in Bloomington while working in Evansville. With I-69, very few will be able to do that.

We also have a fair amount of tracks already laid that can be paired with High Speed Rail Right-Of-Way...

"Remember this: INDOT is building Interstate 69 at the request of people who for more than 50 years pleaded for a modern highway to Bloomington and Indianapolis."
This right here tells us exactly why we shouldn't build I-69. This project is well over 50 years old. We don't lay down horse and buggy trails anymore and we shouldn't build 1950s infrastructure, it's time to move on. We need to pay tribute to our 1950's and later history and heritage by saving great buildings and artifacts from those time periods that are already built such as Roberts Stadium, the Old Greyhound Bus Station, and the Old Courthouse and Jail. We need to preserve history not live in history!

"In the meantime, the first three sections of the highway between Evansville and Crane are under construction. The fourth section is the one threatened by Bloomington."
Like I said earlier, this is not something to be proud of. We just spent several million dollars and ended up with an interstate that is within, at the very farthest, 20-30 miles of U.S 41. We have destroyed a good chunk of the environment in Southern Indiana, we have uprooted many farms and families, and we still have yet to see any significant economic impact. By far and away, this has been a boondoggle of epic proportions. If we don't stop it now, it will go from a multi-million dollar boondoggle to a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

"INDOT officials say they will take their time and consider their options. That's wise, as long as INDOT continues the rapid construction pace set by Gov. Mitch Daniels. In other words, don't stop now."

For those who believe we should keep going with I-69, consider this...

1. Why is a "direct route" to Indianapolis seen as necessary, yet Kentucky is upgrading their Western Kentucky Parkway and Pennyrile which isn't a direct route?

2. How will an I-69 bypass (I-164) provide a better economic impact than U.S 41 which goes right through the middle of Evansville?

3. Why is it okay to take $700 million from a Northern Indiana toll road, yet it is not okay to toll I-69 to give the money back and make the road self-sustaining?

4. If an interstate is such a great driver for economic development, than why aren't Terre Haute, Anderson, and Marion huge metro areas?

5. Why is safety an issue for Bloomington, Washington, and Evansville residents but the safety of those residents in Princeton, Vincennes, Sullivan, and Terre Haute is being ignored by the failure to upgrade U.S 41?

6. Why do we need a completely new terrain for the first 3 segments of I-69 when they run parallel to U.S 41 within 20-30 miles?

7. Which would you rather Evansville be: A crossroads of America rail station or a truck stop full of minimum wage jobs?

8. Why are we building an interstate when gas prices continue to rise, are expected to continue to rise, and driving amongst teenagers is becoming less popular?

9. How many people will be able to commute daily to Evansville from Indianapolis and Bloomington on an interstate where the speed limit is 70 mph versus High Speed Rail where speeds reach 220 mph and greater?

10. While I-69 is safER than state road 57, why is an automobile dependent interstate being pitched as a safety necessity when the auto kills over 30,000 Americans each year?

11. What are the true costs when I-69 is completely totaled up (Evv-Indy, Ohio River Bridge, maintenance costs, interchanges that will need to be added eventually)?

12. Why are we sacrificing thousands of acres of farmland, several hundred homes, and the habitats of all of our wildlife just to save a handful of minutes drive time?

13. If I-64 is at least 10-15 miles outside of Evansville, why can't all those cities on the first three segments thrive with an upgraded U.S 41 only 20-30 miles away?

14. If I-69 is bypassing the vast majority of Evansville, why can't it bypass Bloomington?

15. Why is I-69 only projected to create 4,600 jobs when I-69 supporters themselves have been claiming that 47,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure?

16. Of the jobs projected to be created by I-69, how many of those are jobs that will simply move from U.S 41-I-70 over to I-69? How many are quality jobs versus minimum wage jobs?

As I've been saying for some time now, there is a pal over Evansville. Unfortunately, it is going to keep getting stronger until we change our thought process. We absolutely have to start innovating.

We need to look at cities such as Chattanooga for our vision. Chattanooga, which only has 167,674 residents is thinking like the big cities. A few years ago, the Federal Railroad Administration released a vision for High Speed Rail that contained 11 corridors for development...

As you can see, Chattanooga was left off the list. Instead of going back to old methods of transportation such as the interstate, Chattanooga didn't give up. Not only did they not give up, they are aiming even higher than High Speed Rail.

Currently, high speed rail usually runs 110-220 mph. But, there is also another new rail technology called Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) where the train has no steel wheels and levitates over the track by magnets which power it. Maglev is capable of going over 310 mph. The only downside to Maglev is that it is double the price of High Speed Rail.

Maglev's price tag (which is still very competitive with the interstate construction costs) and being left off the High Speed Rail list hasn't kept Chattanooga down. No, they are planning on building a Maglev line from Chattanooga's airport to downtown Atlanta where it would connect with the rest of the high speed rail grid...

Instead of wasting billions after billions after billions of dollars on an interstate from the 1950s that will give us little to no benefits, we need to think like Chattanooga. We need to push for High Speed Rail and Maglev Rail to come to Evansville! They will be cleaner, greener, cheaper, faster, safer, more luxurious, and will raise property values through the roof. We need RAILS NOT ROADS!

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Take The Kleymeyer Park Sniff Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was talking with a prominent official in one of our two local parties about the prospects of placing 8 softball fields that replicate vintage MLB fields at Kleymeyer Park, which is my alternative to demolishing Roberts Stadium.

To recap, there already is a group that does this very thing. Take a look at their website and their ballparks: If you click on the PARKS DEVELOPMENT tab you will notice they build this parks taxpayer free. They also maintain them taxpayer free.

While I can't guarantee you that this organization would come here to Evansville, I firmly believe that it makes sense for both the cities economics and layout. I believe that building 8 fields to replicate Tiger Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Ebbets Field, The Polo Grounds, Crosley Field, Wrigley Field, Sportsman's Park, and Fenway Park on the Kleymeyer Park grounds will allow us to connect the park to Garvin Park where the championship games could be played at historic Bosse Field.

As I was talking to this official, he said, " I can tell you right now there will be no baseball fields at Kleymeyer Park." I reminded him that there are already 3 fields on the site and then asked him why the site is not a good idea. He replied by saying that the site was formally a dump. Nobody would want to go there because it would smell, you couldn't put anything in the ground, and there is debris from the dump on the site which isn't a good area for baseball. He also said that this current problem exists with Motoux Park on St. Joseph Avenue.

For those of you who visit this site frequently, you know that I have talked about the fact that Kleymeyer Park is a formal dump is a good thing not a bad thing. Kleymeyer Park produces methane gas which we can convert to electricity. In the following post, I talked about the program the EPA has for dealing with this...

The reason why I believe that the methane gas would be a positive for Kleymeyer Park is because this procedure is already done at Motoux Park (which the official talked about). This official also said that parents were pulling their kids left and right from Motoux Park because the smell from the old dump was just too unbearable. In an effort to seek the truth, I decided to pay Kleymeyer and Motoux Park's a visit today.

First, I started with Motoux Park (click on images to enlarge)...

Today was a perfect day to pay Motoux Park a visit. The weather was good and it would be easy to smell anything from the dump if it was possible.

Upon entering Motoux Park, you will be able to see, clear as day, the methane gas pumps all around the site hard at work. These pumps convert methane gas to electricity (as the EPA post I did above says)...

While some of these pumps were off to the side, there were also some in the middle of the soccer fields....

But what about the smell? To check for this wild, unbearable smell, I sniffed high...

I sniffed low...

I sniffed everywhere...

NOTHING! No smell whatsoever! In fact, I would like to thank the Evansville Parks Department for doing such a good job keeping Motoux Park clean and safe. Although the recent complaints by local residents about the Parks Department may be valid, we also need to thank them when they do good a job with our parks. Here are some other great photos of Motoux Park...

Well done Parks Department. But what does Kleymeyer Park look like? Are there any land obstacles that would prohibit 8 ball fields? Is the smell too bad for people to walk on the Kleymeyer Park land? I decided to head to Kleymeyer Park next...

Overall, the front entrance looks decent at Kleymeyer Park, but it is the back part of the park that is in bad shape. Interestingly enough, there are already 3 ball fields on the site and there's also this cool pyramid building (reminds me of the Memphis Pyramid)...

There's also a cool canopy which has some nice architectural flare to it...

If we are ever able to convince city hall to build the ball fields at Kleymeyer, I'd like for them to incorporate those two structures into the plan!

Once more, to seek out this toxic, unbearable, overwhelming, and unsustainable smell, I sniffed high...

I sniffed low...

I sniffed all over the park...

Just like Motoux Park, NOTHING! You can not see, smell, or touch the underground landfill anywhere on the site!

Unfortunately, we will need to clean up Kleymeyer Park from the trash and neglect it has collected from the current batch of vandals, polluters, and park officials who have refused to keep the park in a presentable fashion. These people have gotten away with it for quite a few years lately...

Luckily, we can fix all the damage that has been done recently. We can remove the trash that has been dumped, we can level the dirt mounds that have been overgrown for many years, and we can clear out the weeds that block the awesome view Kleymeyer Park has of Pigeon Creek.

In fact, Mayor Lloyd Jr. wanted to connect Kleymeyer Park with Garvin Park in 2002. He commissioned a study to be done on the area with 13 projects recommended for the area. The 13th idea was to build a bridge from Kleymeyer Park to Garvin Park. If our city truly wants to grow this area, we must connect the two parks with a greenway, a bridge, and hopefully 8 fields that replicate vintage MLB ballparks.

Here is a video I made for this project...

We have great potential with Kleymeyer Park, and for that reason I am asking you the viewers of this blog to take the Kleymeyer Park sniff challenge. When you get some free time, go to Kleymeyer Park (and Motoux Park if you want too) and take a look around and take a sniff around. Then, answer these simple questions...

1. Did you see any debris that can be traced back to the old 1950's landfill?
2. Did you smell anything that can be traced back to the old 1950's landfill?
3. Did you see plenty of trash and debris from today's generation that needs to be removed immediately?
4. Do you believe that building 8 vintage MLB style ball fields on the site with a connecting bridge to Garvin Park and Bosse Field is much better than building 8 dull and boring ball fields on the historic Roberts Stadium site?

If you would like, you can send me your answers (, and I will publish them with your name.

It's time that we took the ball fields project and Kleymeyer Park seriously.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Large Capital Improvement Projects CAN Work In Evansville

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Today, the Courier & Press published an article dealing with the high risks Evansville mayors face when they take on large capital improvement projects for the city...

First of all, it is important to understand that not all capital improvement projects are the same. Opening up traffic on Main Street was a horrible idea (the only bad idea on Mayor Lloyd's 2001 master plan), and the Wesselman ball fields would have destroyed one of our greatest capital improvement projects ever built, Roberts Stadium.

On the other hand, Mayor Lloyd's ballpark was a fantastic idea. The only problem I had with it was that it wasn't on the Mulzer Stone lot where baseballs would fly into the river and into the hands of those with kayaks and canoes which is done at AT&T Park in San Francisco and PNC Park in Pittsburgh. Mayor Lloyd's 2001 master plan also called for re digging the old Wabash & Erie Canal, opening up the civic center, building a marina, revitalizing Main Street, and redeveloping the land around Pigeon Creek. All of those ideas are EXCELLENT ideas and, in my opinion, MUST be in any master plan this city decides to implement.

The projects I just mentioned as well as a few other ideas that Evansville has replicated (such as the new arena) have been successful in other cities . Let's take a look...

Louisville, KY

- Closed off 4th Street to traffic and built 4th Street Live
- Built the KFC YUM! Center (and saved Freedom Hall)
- Built Louisville Slugger Field
- Revitalized Old Louisville
- In the process of converting the Big Four Bridge to a pedestrian bridge

Omaha, NE

- Constructed a canal north of Farnam Street in the heart of downtown Omaha
- Revitalized Omaha's Old Market into a shopping destination
- Constructed TD Ameritrade Park
- Constructed the Qwest Center (and saved the Omaha Civic Auditorium)
- Constructed the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
- Constructed a Lewis & Clark Trail Center which is run by the National Parks Department
- Built the Lauritzen Botanical Gardens
- In the process of expanding the Omaha Zoo

Indianapolis, IN

- Constructed Conseco Fieldhouse
- Constructed Lucas Oil Stadium
- Built the Central Canal District
- Built Monument Circle

Oklahoma City (under the MAPS program)

- renovations to the Civic Center Music Hall, The Myriad (Now Cox Convention Center) and Oklahoma State Fairgrounds;

-construction of the AT&T Bricktown Ballpark

-construction of the Ford Center, an indoor multipurpose sports arena.

-construction of the "Bricktown Canal"

-construction of a riverfront and recreational dams for the North Canadian River

-the Ronald J. Norick Downtown Library, a four-story main library to replace a facility that had been built in 1951

-a new Library/Learning Center

-development of the Oklahoma Spirit Trolleys, a trolley-replica bus network

(the following are in the process of being built under MAPS 3)

$280 million new 200,000 sq ft (19,000 m2) Convention Center.

$130 million 70-acre (280,000 m2) downtown park similar to Houston's Discovery Green to be located south of current I-40.

$130 million for mass transit including a downtown 5-6 mile modern streetcar system.

$50 million for health and wellness aquatic centers to be located throughout the city.

$60 million for improvements at the Oklahoma State Fair.

$60 million for improvements to the Oklahoma River.

$40 million to extend trails throughout the city.

$10 million to build sidewalks around the city.

What Can We Do To Change The Local Mindset?

In an earlier post, I talked about the MAPS program that Oklahoma City implemented...

Now cities such as Pittsburgh and Jacksonville have begun replicating OKC's plan...

Basically, MAPS works like this...

1. The citizens come up with their own ideas and plans. They then can go around town lobbying for other citizens to support their ideas.

2. The citizens then go to their local government's website and submit the ideas.

3. The ideas with the most votes get implemented (OKC took as many ideas as they could afford).

4. The final ideas are lumped into a program (MAPS).

5. The program is put on the ballot where voters vote to temporarily increase the local sales tax by 1% for 7 years. After 7 years, the tax expires and can only be extended with another referendum.

6. If approved, the 7 year 1% sales tax goes into effect and a committee to oversee the projects is assembled.

7. After 7 years, if there is enough revenue collected, the projects can begin breaking ground. If there is not enough revenue, a temporary 2 year 1% sales tax increase can be voted on, some projects can be scaled down, or some projects can be eliminated completely.

8. Repeat cycle

So far, there have been three MAPS programs and all three have passed voter approval. Not only has MAPS been successful, but it has been successful in Oklahoma, which is the heart of deep conservative country just like Evansville. If they can do it there, we can do it here.

Here are my top 10 reasons why MAPS would be a better success than the current plan...

1. The projects wouldn't be piece mealed. We'd have to get voter support only once to get at least 5-7 projects going. Currently, every project we do is a battle to the bitter end.

2. If MAPS is voted down, the voters can only point the finger at themselves given that MAPS is their own ideas not city hall's.

3. MAPS would gather ideas from everyone not just a select few. With the ball fields project, only one man and his group were ever heard from despite the fact that the majority of residents did not want the project. We were forced to wait until the project died a natural death after many, many, many dollars were wasted.

4. MAPS would give Evansville momentum. With 5-7 projects being constructed at the same time, many young professionals and residents would clearly be able to see the progress we would be making. Evansville would have a "great renaissance" image.

5. Voters couldn't complain that any project wasn't liked. If Evansville didn't like the projects, they would have the chance to vote against them on the website and then vote them down at the polls.

6. MAPS would give our master plan a source of funding. The problem we had with the 2001 master plan was lack of funding. In order to build the 2001 plan, we would have to go to all ends of the earth to find funding. With MAPS it is simple, a temporary 1% sales tax.

7. MAPS would inspire debate. When we did the 2001 master plan, we brought EVERYONE together. We listened to our Chamber of Commerce, city hall, our development agencies, and, most importantly, we listened to the people. For that reason, we inspired debate about everything currently in downtown. We debated the future of the Aztar area, Main St., First Avenue, and everywhere else at the same time. Currently, only one area is ever debated (such as the new arena spot).

8. MAPS will save money. If we do our projects in bunches, we can get bulk discounts on construction work and architectural design. Currently, we do a project and then use more money to renovate it if we decide to add another project to it later. look at the arena/hotel situation. Why not build them together as one building?

9. MAPS will not bankrupt our town. After 7 years of the 1% sales tax, we build what we can with the money we get or do a temporary extension. We would not be taking out a 30-year loan to build a project that may or may not succeed. This would also save us a TREMENDOUS amount of money by avoiding interest rates. Furthermore, while MAPS is being collected during the 7-year tax, it is generating revenue. OKC generated $52 million from interest. Basically, they got a FREE ballpark built.

10. MAPS is personal. Like I said earlier, you and I can come up with an idea and then go around gathering up people's votes ourselves. Instead of having to latch onto another person's project, we can control our destiny. For instance, if I supported building a ballpark, I would go around telling everyone I know to go onto the cities website and write-in "ballpark." If I really wanted the idea to get passed, I could do ads, post signs, and knock on doors. MAPS makes capital improvement projects personal for every single resident.

Unfortunately, there is one obstacle we would have to overcome to get a MAPS program here in Evansville. Currently, Oklahoma is a referendum state and Indiana is not (like almost every other eastern state minus Ohio). This means that we could not put together a MAPS plan and then have a binding vote at the polls on it. To get around this law, I have compiled a few ideas...

- Lobby your state legislators to change the law
- Have a non-binding vote where we would adopt the Yes or No majority vote but it wouldn't be binding
- Skip the vote ONLY if we are confident that the majority of local residents came to the website to give us their idea
- Lobby for a special exemption to the law
- Use local funding instead (ex. Aztar, food and beverage, etc) that could get around the state law

I am very disappointed that Mayors Roberts, Lloyd, and Weinzapfel have taken a significant amount of heat for building or trying to build Roberts Stadium, a new ballpark, and the new downtown arena respectively, although I will be disappointed if Mayor Weinzapfel demolishes Roberts Stadium.

We absolutely have to undertake large capital improvement projects, and I hope you will join me in the effort to bring MAPS to Evansville!

(photo credit: flickr/caseycornett)