By Steven Meyer
Recent newspaper accounts describe Bloomington as being obstructionist when it comes to I-69. What they fail to report is that Bloomington officials are the only ones bravely raising reasonable questions about this project in the face of anti-democratic tactics on behalf of the state. Here is a recap of the events from the last year:
November 2010: INDOT requested that the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), the transportation planning group for the greater Bloomington area, amend its planning documents to include Section 4 of I-69 (Crane to Bloomington). Federal regulations require the MPO to approve a project before it can be eligible for federal funding. The MPO members questioned INDOT Deputy Commissioner Sam Sarvis, who was unable to answer several of their basic questions about the project. Commissioner Sarvis threatened that the state would be reevaluating all discretionary spending in the Bloomington area if the MPO did not approve the amendment. Under duress, the MPO included I-69 in its planning document.
May 2011: The MPO was scheduled to vote on a new planning document. Since INDOT had failed to answer the questions posed to Mr. Sarvis 6 months earlier, the MPO excluded I-69 from its plan.
September 2011: The state overrode the MPO vote, deciding not to certify the MPO’s new plan. INDOT received federal approval for I-69 based on the outdated November 2010 plan. It only took the state about a month on average to certify plans from other MPOs around the state. INDOT again asked the MPO to include I-69 in its plan before it would certify it. The MPO produced a list of over 100 unanswered questions it wants responses to before it will take a vote.
The MPO will meet again on November 11th to review the responses from INDOT. However, since INDOT is cutting corners all along the project and has no plan on how to pay for the remaining $1.2 billion portion of the project, being obstructionist may be the only rational option left for Bloomington.