By Steven Meyer
In case you didn’t see the story over the weekend, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) gave itself a tremendous pat on the back about how environmentally sensitive New Terrain I-69 will be. INDOT is spending $77 million to preserve up to 10 square miles at 50 different sites along the route. Sounds great, right? Well, as our Senior Policy Director, Tim Maloney, pointed out, INDOT is simply following the federal guidelines for environmental mitigation. And, it strains the limits of credibility to say that clear cutting nearly two thousand acres of old growth forests and replacing them with saplings makes the project environmentally friendly.
While $77 million seems like a huge amount to spend on mitigation, keep in mind that the estimated cost of just the Evansville to Bloomington portion has ballooned to over $1.5 billion! Over half of that funding is being diverted from the gas tax revenues INDOT uses to fund all other state road and bridge projects. In order to afford New Terrain I-69, INDOT has delayed or canceled 19 other projects around the state. That doesn’t even include the more than 4,000 Indiana bridges that are long overdue for repairs or replacement.
Let’s truly mitigate the affects of I-69 by building it along existing road beds – the U.S. 41 /I-70 alternative. This Common Sense I-69 approach would save Hoosier taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and minimize the environmental impacts. Let’s invest our precious transportation dollars on fixing our crumbling roads and bridges instead of building more roads that we can’t afford to repair.