Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

August 21, 2012

Airport expansion raises questions


Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — Dear Editor,

I am a native of Greensburg, having left it for a military career and settling elsewhere.

I care for my native city and so I spoke at last week's public session on the airport expansion proposal. In that the Daily News' first report of it focused on former Mayor Gary Bailey's comments, I give him credit in that the proper questions were probably asked, given the knowledge-at-hand 11 years ago.

This is 11 years later. Public parameters have changed. The old questions are obsolete and I allege the reasons provided for airport expansion are ill-advised.

What rendered them obsolete? Another  recent meeting began the process of laying groundwork for a high-speed public railway. At issue is whether those trains will stop for people to board, or whether people will watch them pass.

Nobody argues with a modern airport facility as an attractive piece of infrastructure, but who should benefit and why at that location? Review the video of former Mayor Bailey's address. He stated of airport expansion, "It will bring benefits today. It will benefit tomorrow Ñ your kids, my kids, the region. It's just not a city of Greensburg project. It will benefit everyone in the area."

I agree wholeheartedly with his aims, but the focus of the meeting should have been about developing a regional airport facility where all who will benefit, will also pay a share of monetary support. I allege by their doing, elected and appointed officials are positioning Greensburg's taxpayers to wrongfully bear a financial burden for others.

Mayor Bailey cited Bloomington economist Marcus Morton as saying words to the effect that if the city did not go on with airport expansion, then it would be a huge mistake and Greensburg would be the laughingstock of cities around the state. Yet, Bailey also stated, "There is nothing in the report ... the environmental study, to indicate that it shouldn't be anywhere but where it's at." If Bailey will cite economist Marcus Morton, then why is an environmental study the centerpiece upon which economic decisions are made? I allege these are poorly-advised decisions and wonder if Morton will advise the same in view of the coming high-speed rail.

For that matter, where is the economic study to indicate the prosperity an expanded airport will bring, and when was the public advised? My take is that the pro-expansion set amounted to a parade of people tossing loose wording in hope it would just fly over the head of most. At least one other made inference to the environmental assessment, as if that assessment would define economic success. Environmental and economic assessments are different matters.

Who might be expected to provide projected economic information? Greensburg Economic Development Corporation's executive director, Marc Coplon, spoke twice at the meeting. He spoke about airport expansion being welcomed in the Tennessee cities of Dayton, Athens, Smyrna and Jackson.

He didn't provide the hard-number economic projections of what airport expansion will do for Greensburg. His pitch inferred that success in Tennessee will equate to economic success here, if only Greensburg will follow the pattern. Still, he left nothing to define what ÒsuccessÓ means.

Coplon stated that he is willing to be corrected if he is wrong. I'll take him to task.

He cited how important it was for America's growth to build the railroad system. He cited that I-74 might have been located in Rush County had not so many of those citizens objected. Later he asked, "Should we sit back and watch the Shelbyville's and Columbus's of the world use federal and state money to expand their airports?"

We are 11 years beyond former Mayor Bailey's inception of an expanded airport, and I have to ask Mr. Coplon to ponder this: If railroads and interstate highways are important as you admit, and there is federal and state money available, then why not combine railways and roadways with the airways, by building a southeast Indiana transportation hub at a location which serves regional interests just as Mayor Bailey admitted even before you spoke?

That is the question which needs to be answered, along with an environmental assessment and an economic assessment, before undertaking airport expansion at its current location. Why? Because a combined regional transportation hub is an even more attractive piece of infrastructure, and more in tune with needs of the future.

What needs? Consider the location between metropolitan areas. There might be FEMA or SEMA interest. Consider that a National Guard or Reserve military aviation unit might be located on the backside of the runway.

And consider the Urban Training Center is but a few miles away. It is currently flying military personnel to Terre Haute and transporting them by bus across the state.

Sincerely,

Jeff Martin, Whiteland, formerly of Greensburg