Ray Irvin Interview (cont)
NBG: Right. Okay, you talk about the 70 miles of bikeroutes. How many miles?
Ray: Green way trails?
NBG: Trails, by that you mean dirt?
Ray: Oh, I mean paved trails with signage and all the amenities of trails
NBG: Okay, I thought you had a couple of hundred miles of greenway there though?
Ray: We have over 200 miles of dedicated greenways along our rivers and streams. These are on 20 corridors that are set aside for trails or conservation space.
Ray: Okay, the 70 miles is actually trails that are formal trails where we have a hard surface that is ADA accessible. You can ride your bike on, you can rollerblade on, you know, walk, jog or whatever. We have 200 miles of dedicated greenways that will eventually see trails and it may be another 100 years before they all have trails on them. But eventually they will and they have been set aside as conservation green space for greenways. We then have on street bikeroutes and we have about 300 miles of on street bikeroute right now, we’re trying to build toward 350 miles.
NBG: Now are these bike lanes?
Ray: On street bikeroutes.
NBG: Do they have bike lanes in them as well?
Ray: No, they do not and that’s still my battle. One of the things that we’re fighting here is that we haven’t quite convinced our engineers that we want a stripe on there with two or three feet of dedicated bikeroute. They’ve been resistant to that because they think the roads are built for cars. I always make the argument that we shouldn’t be in the bikeroute business, we should be just for cars. And I always say, well you know what’s interesting, I said, you know we started out most of our streets were two lanes and there were sidewalks along them and you guys ended up taking the sidewalks and making the into three lanes or four lanes or five lanes or six lanes, you know, we’re working on an interstate over here where we’re putting in eight lanes and I said, you know if you guys would just give us back the land you took from us where we had sidewalks and space along there for pedestrians and runners, I said I’d be more than delighted to accommodate you, but I said we want those bikeroutes and bike lanes and marked, we’ve got the signs up but they’re not lined yet, but we’re working on it. We’ll get them.
NBG: <laugh> Okay. So there’s plenty of room then to safely navigate around Indianapolis?
Ray: One of the things on our bikeroutes that we’ve done is we actually have to work with the Department of Public Works, the transportation people, and they have to actually approve it. We work through Metropolitan Development and plan those routes and then we have to have them assess it to make sure that it’s wide enough, that it meets the national standards, to actually accommodate a bike rider and car traffic along those. So, yeah, there’s enough space there to put a bike lane down if they wanted to, it’s just that they’re still having a little heartburn because greenways is now determining where the bikeroutes go.
NBG: Okay, what I’m trying to find out, Ray, is I’m trying to find out which communities, I know the trails are out there, like the Katy Trail and we could go on and on, but which communities are doing the kind of thing you’re doing, are integrating them with transportation or making them part of the city, making them work within the city?
Ray: Martin, one of our challenges is there’s lots of pieces, there’s lots of cities doing pieces of it. Even here in Indy, we’re still doing pieces of it. We haven’t got the whole package together indicated by the lines on the street for the bikeroutes, but I can’t point to any one city because everyone is doing pieces and what we need to keep working on in this country is how do we come up with this unification project where we bring all these pieces together. I can’t point to any one city that’s doing it all.
NBG: How about Portland?
Ray: Portland is one of the old standards we’ve looked to for years. They’ve probably done as well as anybody, but there’s other cities coming on that have grand ambitions and what we need to really do is encourage these mayors that you’ve been so good at working with, the mayors around the country, and highlighting to them how important this movement is, but getting these people who are in the position of power in politics to have this vision and adopt this vision in their communities and I’ve always been so impressed and always been so willing to work with you because you’re out there doing this every day around the country and you’ve seen more of that than I probably have in a lot of ways. But I go around the country and speak, I’m going to be at the Rails to Trails Conference in Minneapolis this year, and right after that we’re going to have the Mid-Americas Greenway Conference which was a conference we started here many years ago and it started out as Minneapolis and surrounding counties and expanded as the surrounding states and now we’re doing the Mid-America Conference that was here last year and is gonna be in Minneapolis this year. In fact next week I’m a major presenter at the Indiana Leadership Conference, and this is where we’ve got the governor, not only a lot of elected officials, but a lot of business people will be at this conference and it’s like $500 for the conference fee, but I have a chance to really promote the idea of livable communities because these people in industry really want this Richard Florida creative class person in this community so they can hire them, so they can move their corporations and visions forward. So that’s kind of what it’s about, it’s about everyone finding out how do we position our city to be competitive with that other city out there, that’s gonna get us that little bit of an edge, and that quality of life is what it’s gonna take and greenways is an inexpensive way to do it.
NBG: Okay, I’m not gonna let this one slip through the cracks because it’s a very exciting thought. Infrastructure: gas, water, sewer, fiber optics, do you bury that under one of your trails? Is that correct?
Ray: I think we could create a greenway system today and have it pay for itself. Okay?
NBG: Would it connect the coasts?
Ray: There’s a couple of ways we could do it. See how we can make it work.
NBG: TIme out. Hold on one second, I want to make sure I understand. You’re saying a greenway system, are we talking about a national greenway system? One that would connect the coasts?
Ray: I’m talking about national, I’m talking about local, I’m talking about regional.
NBG: Okay, good.
Ray: Let me give you an example. In 1989 in Indy we had a lift station fail on Williams Creek North White River neighborhood on the north side of Indy. We dumped millions of gallons of raw sewerage into our rivers and streams. The EPA came in and mandated that we put in a interceptor sewer system in our community serving the entire north side. Well, putting interceptor sewer system in and a lot of stuff that goes in the ground, politicians are sometimes reluctant to spend literally the millions and millions of dollars it takes those things because they want to spend their money on their watch where people can see it and there’s a monument to them and they don’t make monuments to sewers for the most part. So one of the things we had to do was we had to put this interceptor sewer system in and at the same time we were starting the early negotiations for the Monan rail corridor. We had a chance to buy the Monan rail corridor, 10 1/2 miles, ran from the complete north side of our county all the way into downtown Indy. We bought that for a federal urban transportation grant for $265,000 from the railroad. We no sooner bought it than we dug the entire thing up and put a 48” sewer main underneath it serving the entire north side of our city because there was no other utilities underneath that entire rail bed. Had we have had to do that and go down one of our streets, I’m talking about a major thoroughfare into the heart of our city, if we would have had to have done that, it would have cost us hundreds of millions of dollars in engineering, construction, and what it would have taken in traffic disruption would have been disastrous. We ended up putting this thing down in less than six months. We did it at a fraction of the cost, literally a fraction of the cost of what it would have taken to have put it down a thoroughfare. And today I maintain that if we look at these major corridors, the rail corridors, the old, the nice thing about our rivers and streams, a lot of those corridors are all gravity and you know, for sewer systems to work you’ve got to have a certain amount of drop in your lines, so the fact that we have these and can put these along our rivers and stream corridors and not tear up our streets, the trail becomes the service road to service this infrastructure. We have numerous areas along our levee trails where we used to just have an old dirt road that was rutted out by 4-wheel drives and everything else. We got the 4-wheel drives off of there, we paved it, these are now trails, there’s all these valves along our levee systems that have to be accessed and serviced on a regular basis, they can now get up there year round on our trail to have access to their infrastructure, we look at gas, we look at water. As our cities continue to grow, there’s more and more of a demand out in the suburbs for water, we can’t have water treatment plants and waste water treatment plants on every corner, but we can have these large facilities and run these lines out these greenway corridors but we can have a trail on for service road, we’re not competing for millions of miles of infrastructure that are underneath the ground on these roads and thoroughfares and I think we could actually pay for it by using subterranean underground leases for them to run these pipes and stuff along. I also think we need to look at a real estate transfer fee where we can actually demonstrate that we have had a positive impact on the value of these properties along these rivers and streams. If people want to live there, then I really think we need to look at a small percentage, and it could probably be 1/2 of 1/4 a percent of a real estate transfer tax that would go to supporting those greenways in areas that we’ve actually impacted in a positive way the property values. And the other thing I think we need to look at, honesty and truly, is some type of a bicycle user fee. And, just like we pay a license fee annually for our cars to drive around on the roads, I pay an annual boat fee for basically motoring on Lake Michigan (I sail on Lake Michigan, I don’t motor) I pay a license fee for that, I think a small fee for the bicyclist or the people that are using these trails would not be unreasonable to help support them. And I’m talking about literally a few pennies.
NBG: I’m in concert with you on that.
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