Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Enchanted NIMBY Forest IV: Quasi-Expressway & Endgame

I-675 looked dead after Goldschmidt’s decision, but bypass advocates didn’t give up. During the first half of 1980 the quasi-expressway concept was developed.

The concept, which surfaced earlier in the controversy, was to build a limited access highway from I-75 to OH 48 (Far Hills Avenue), with interchanges at OH 725 and OH 48. After OH 48 the route would be a four-lane at-grade highway to US 35, with stoplights at Wilmington Pike and Indian Ripple Road.

Presumably this would have been a lot like the US 35/Trotwood connector, which has a similar mix of at-grade and limited access segments.

This proposal was just a short step away from a full limited access highway, so wouldn’t have met the city and citizens’ group objections. One could easily imagine a future project changing the stoplight intersections to grade-separated interchanges and adding extra lanes.

A justification for the quasi-expressway was that an alternative package of surface street improvements was too costly. This was questioned by staff at the DOT regional office in Chicago, who thought the TCC was gaming the estimates to push a decision to the quasi-expressway.

The quasi-expressway was the preferred alternative of the I-675 advocates until the 1980 presidential election began in earnest. The concept was then dropped and bypass advocates decided to lobby the Reagan campaign for a statement in support of a true interstate, hoping Reagan would make good on the campaign promise if elected.

And that promise was made by VP candidate George HW Bush during a campaign swing through Dayton in September.

When Jimmy Carter came to Dayton in October for a town hall he was provided this “Situation Report” by DOT while being driven in from the airport:

“The President is stepping into a very HOT issue that has pitted the city and its black community against the region and its suburban white population”

…a succinct outside opinion, notable for not sugar-coating the racial subtext of the controversy.

Carter later said he would support the quasi-expressway. Not good enough for I-675 proponents.

In November Reagan was elected (though Carter carried Montgomery County).

Reagan Approval and the Final Battle.

Reagan appointed Drew Lewis as Secretary of Transportation. Lewis’ was a railroad man, CEO of the Union Pacific railroad, widely regarded at the time as one of the best-run US railroads. A concern surfaced after the election that I-675 might have stayed dead, as there was talk that Reagan administration was not going to fund any more interstates as a cost-cutting measure.
Instead, DOT generated a list of high-interest highway projects for Lewis to review. I-675 was on the list.

In 1981 Lewis reversed Goldschmidt’s decision, approving the bypass.

McGee left office in 1982. The 1981 Democratic mayoral primary was an opportunity for bypass proponents to pay back Pat Roach for opposing I-675. Roach was challenged in the primary by Paul Leonard, a state representative and strong supporter of I-675. Leonards’ opposition to Roach and support of the bypass ensured support from the business community. Leonard won the race 2 to 1. Roach remained on the city commission for a short time after her defeat and, true to her principles, cast the lone “no” on the final I-675 vote on February 1982. She then faded into political obscurity.

The Citizens against I-675 continued to fight, challenging Drew Lewis’ decision via an administrative appeal in 1981, and when rebuffed, went to Federal court. The suit challenged the bypass on the ground the EIS was deficient. As a measure of the continuing bitterness over the bypass the TCC and the Chamber of Commerce asked to be named as co-plantiffs in the case.

While the legal challenge was underway, engineering was completed, contracts advertised, and bids opened. Contracts couldn’t be let until the final legal decision, which was rendered on 22 April 1981 in favor of the bypass. 19 minutes later the first contract was awarded.

The remaining parts of I-675 were completed in stages. The first parts opened in 1984, between I-75 and OH 725 and between Fairfield Road and US 35. The final segment was open to traffic in the fall of 1986.

During construction the nearly forgotten DART light rail scheme resurfaced. The question was if an overpass was needed over the proposed rail line. The decision was no, being the final nail in the light rail coffin.

The TCC, in the forefront of the I-675 battle, disappeared. During the early 1980s discussions surfaced about disbanding the TCC and rolling transportation planning into the MVRPC. This apparently did happen in the 1980s.

The leader of the neighborhood opposition, Frank Mione, eventually moved from the NIMBY forest and now lives in a duplex in Washington Township.

And the NIMBY Forest, no longer enchanted, was bisected by I-675.


Anonymous said...

Hello, this is my first post on this blog. I'll make it short since I am at work. I really enjoy this blog, especially as I am a former City employee and dealt with a lot of the issues mentioned. I hope to see more analysis and updates. Anyway, I was hoping you might give some sort of conclusion of the aftermath of the I-675 construction. It was very bad for the city, but did it bring in businesses that might not have come anyway? Were the jobs it 'steal' on the way out regardless?

I would like to hear how the downtown is doing these days. When I was working, economic development wanted to redevelop the old GM plants and surrounding areas as a hub for hi-tech industries (the project was named 'tech town'). Previously, they had hoped to attract the tool and dye industry (at the time it was going to be 'tool town') before the bottom fell out of the industry. Don't know how it is doing now as I didn't stick around, but curious to find out, and the DD news isn't very helpful. Wasn't my job but I thought a lot about how to keep the city from dying. Despite some aspects, the city was very innovative in some of areas and was a real role model for other cities facing the same situation.

Anyway, really enjoy the blog, especially the updates on Dayton be they ever so bleak. Working in Dayton was a very rewarding experience, best job I ever had hands down but had to get out of the midwest if I wanted to survive.

Jefferey said...

Tech Town is underway, they are constructing the first building, but are probably going to tear down the tall Frigidaire loft building.

They are finishng up a 10 story mid-rise next to the Biltmore for careSource, some sort of medical records company.

Other than that, stay tuned.