Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Is a residential neighborhood the right place for an intermodal facility?

Over the last year, there was a lot of talk about an inter modal facility in Toledo. One of the locations identified for expansion is Airline Junction near the University of Toledo's Scott Park Campus.

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As you can see, this area is surrounded by residential homes and really doesn't have room to expand. It's about a 2-mile stretch, consisting of rail and truck operations.

As explained in an economic impact analysis by the University of Toledo, the plan is to double the number of lifts at this facility from roughly 28,000 to around 60,000.

While there are sufficient industrial sites suitable for support companies within a 5-mile radius of the junction, I cannot help but wonder what the neighbors will think of a doubling of the activity so close to a residential section of our city.

For comparison, there is a large inter modal facility in Memphis, TN:

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Friends and family in Memphis told me that the major road running parallel to the facility is only traveled on weekdays when absolutely necessary due to the amount of truck traffic. Because of the lights and intersections, the fully-loaded trucks are very slow and never quite get up to the speed limit until they actually reach the highways, making driving alongside them rather frustrating.

Fortunately, this area in Memphis is industrial with no pedestrian or bike traffic to compete with the heavy trucks.

But that's not the case in Toledo.

Within about 2,000 feet of Airline Junction are five schools, including Libby High School, St. Charles School, and two elementary schools: Burroughs and Arlington. There are four parks/playgrounds within that distance as well.

I'm all in favor of pursuing inter modal transportation within the Toledo area. During my campaign for, and time in office as a county commissioner, I advocated for a focus on transportation.

And while I realize Airline Junction is an existing facility with some potential for growth, I think we need to plan better and take into account all factors, including the impact any expansion will have on the established residential neighbors and the roads used by an increased number of trucks.

My wish is that emphasis on expanding inter modal transportation would focus on our existing ports (water and air) where there is plenty of room for expansion without negatively impacting the residential life cherished by Toledoans.

But if the only place willing to put forth private money (in addition to all the tax dollars going to support it) is within a residential neighborhood, I hope the politicians will think ahead about how to deal with the impact - and not do what they usually do, which is wait until after the fact when they start getting phone calls from their constituents.

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