My wife and I attended the League of Women-sponsored candidate forum at the Columbia Public Library recently. I appreciated the question and discussion about Interstate 70. It encourages me to share our experience from July 3 as we drove home from Columbus, Ohio.
During times when she was driving, I counted vehicles in the eastbound lane in Ohio between Columbus and Dayton, in Indiana between Indianapolis and Terre Haute and in Illinois between Effingham and St. Louis. The counting time/distance was determined by the space on the scrap paper where I listed the numbers (sorry… not very scientific). I counted the big semi-trucks (18-wheelers), and then I counted all other vehicles, including campers, buses, sedans, pickups, motorcycles, etc.
The Ohio count was 69 trucks and 119 other vehicles. In Indiana there were 59 trucks and 120 other vehicles, and in Illinois there were 77 trucks and 193 other vehicles. The total was 205 trucks and 432 other vehicles, or about 2.1 other vehicles for every big truck. I was amazed. I would have guessed at least 5 other vehicles for every truck.
I think we need to look at I-70 from a larger perspective. The purpose of transportation is to move people and products from one place to another, and the important question is: How do we do it most efficiently at the least cost to earth’s resources and in a manner that is sustainable into the future? Surely if we can send people into space, we can devise a more efficient system of transporting produce across this vast country than one truck at a time.
Fortunately, there are other options. Rail and water are much more efficient means of transporting freight. Rail and buses are also more efficient for transporting people. In recent years there has been a growing trend to give tax write-offs to encourage all kinds of industry and development projects in Columbia and around the state. What if we gave tax write-offs to rail and bus companies to encourage their developing more and better transportation services? Instead of spending huge tax investments on a bigger and better I-70 for still more trucks and cars, by encouraging rail and bus transit we have fewer vehicles on the highway, improve the safety and pleasure of highway travel, and have much more efficient use of earth’s limited resources.
Cleo Kottwitz is a Columbia resident.