The Indiana Department of Transportation has released a draft of its 2035 long range transportation plan. The previous iteration, which seems to no longer be available online, was a pretty good plan I thought. One of the first things Mitch Daniels did when coming into office was to blow the whistle on how INDOT had basically been lying about its plans. It had promised basically everything to everybody even though there was no prospect of paying for it. He decided to face the issue of underfunding head on, the result of which was the Toll Road lease and the Major Moves highway construction plan.
As part of this, INDOT produced a new long range plan that had a much more realistic list of projects than in the past. It was probably still too much to get done. But not ridiculously so.
Well, as Major Moves has progressed and it has become clear that the state doesn’t have the money to complete all the projects as originally conceived, INDOT seems to be backsliding into its old ways. I noted the sneaky way they kicked perhaps the state’s most critical corridor upgrade out of the Major Moves program without telling anyone. Now as I’ve reviewed their new LRP draft, it’s clear long range planning is reverting to form. Here is what INDOT says about their plan:
Previous INDOT Long-Range Transportation Plans were “Project Specific” identifying specific highway expansion projects to meet identified transportation needs and stated goals. Projects included costs and ready for construction dates through 2030. or the new plan, INDOT has adopted a “Needs-Based” type plan. Needs-based plans describe overarching strategies to accomplish future results (e.g., improved mobility, safety, economic development, etc.). Needs-based plans include official public policies for solving problems or meeting projected demands, typically based on legislation and implemented through governmental programs. It also identifies the means to accomplish these policies, through strategies, or programs.
In other words, INDOT has solved the management challenge of delivering on a long range list of projects by simply deciding not to make a list at all. This allows them to acknowledge every community’s “needs” without having any tangible plan to address them. In other words, pretty much the status quo ante. A long range plan where you don’t even say what it is that you plan do is no plan at all. Indiana has abandoned long range transportation planning.