The next I-90 battle
The City of Avon has commissioned a $150,000 study of its I-90 access needs, with many people suggesting that a new interchange is needed to accommodate current and future land development.
The Lorain County community has approved creation of more than 4,000 residential lots since 1996 and anticipates an additional 25,000 residents over the next decade. Major commercial development interests are also interested in building along Avons I-90 corridor. As a result, Avon officials say theyre anticipating congestion problems 10 to 20 years into the future and are proactively researching the best course of action now.
The citys move will force the regions decisionmakers to once again confront the relationship between suburban sprawl and public spending for highways. In the late 90s during a NOACA board debate about the implications of widening I-90 to three lanes in the area, Lorain County Commissioner Betty Blair bluntly defined the challenge of acting regionally when political boundaries are strictly local. In response to concerns about promoting suburban sprawl that were raised by Cuyahoga County representatives, Blair stated, Your sprawl is my economic development!
The fact that Blair was president of the NOACA board at the time highlighted the fact that NOACA is constrained in acting truly regionally by the powerful self-interest of its locally elected representatives. Though many in the private sector are calling for regional cooperation to enhance economic competitiveness, no one is elected to serve the region as a whole.
Fast forward to 2004, when having three lanes in each direction on I-90 now makes it possible to consider additional interchanges. The study areas 2,300 acres would certainly yield more tax revenues to the City of Avon with a new interchange.
But is spending millions of dollars in federal and state money for another interchange economically, socially or environmentally responsible from a regional perspective? In a region whose population has remained essentially flat for more than 40 years, whats the net benefit of a public investment that simply shuffles population and jobs from one local taxing district to another?
Its obvious why Avons council has commissioned a study that will call for new infrastructure investment within its borders. But whats less clear is the regions responsibility to respond by approving public dollars for such a project. Cuyahoga County representatives have already signaled their concern, suggesting that a growth management strategy should be considered that includes long-range goals for land use as well as transportation. Theyve also requested a report from NOACA staff on regional goals regarding new interchange proposals.
NOACAs dedicated planning staff are again faced with the unenviable task of serving many masters. This I-90 access study will provide them with the clearest possible opportunity to define public investment policies that serve the best social, economic, and environmental interests of the region as a whole.
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First Suburbs Consortium letter on the dangers of a new I-90 interchange in Avon