Proposed new-terrain highway threatens forests, karst and wildlife.
The Wesley Chapel Gulf (pictured above) is a 1,000 acre sinkhole — a national natural landmark — that could be impacted by Route O of the Mid-States highway. All photos by Steven Higgs
What is the Mid-States Corridor Project?
The Mid-States Corridor Project is a proposed new-terrain highway connecting Rockport, Indiana to Interstate 69. It would utilize existing US 231 from Rockport to I-64, then bypass Huntingburg and Jasper and reach I-69 in one of three directions: northwest, due north, or northeast.
Preparation of a Tier 1 environmental impact statement (EIS) is underway. The original release timeline — Fall of 2020 — for the draft EIS has been pushed back. Release of the draft EIS will be followed by a formal public comment period and public meetings. Once the public comments are considered, and any further project changes made, a Final Environmental Impact Statement will be published along with a Record of Decision that selects the final preferred highway route, in the form of a 2,000-foot wide corridor. The next stage — if the project goes forward — would be a Tier 2 EIS that would identify and analyze the exact on-the-ground alignment of the highway within the 2,000-foot wide corridor selected in Tier 1. For the Tier 2 process, the route may be subdivided into sections and a separate Tier 2 EIS prepared for each section. For example, for the new-terrain I-69 project, the final route was evaluated in six separate Tier 2 environmental studies. Construction cannot start until the Tier 2 process — either for a section or the entire route — is completed.
The draft EIS is expected to examine 10 highway alternatives along 5 route corridors and select one of these alternatives as the preferred alternative. The total length of the 10 alternatives ranges from 56 to 101 miles. Miles of new-terrain roadway range from 34 miles to 62 miles in length, beginning at the I-64/US 231 interchange south of Huntingburg. The northern endpoint of the project depends on the corridor selected. The options are: I-69 at Washington, I-69 at US 231, or I-69 at Bloomington via SR 37 from Bedford or Mitchell. The 10 alternatives include different types of highway design — freeway, expressway, or super 2 — within the 5 corridors.
The construction cost estimates for these alternatives range from $300 million to $1.47 billion.
Every new highway may have significant environmental impact.
Why should Hoosiers be concerned about this highway project?
For the Mid-States project, several of the routes would cross some of the most sensitive and rugged terrain found in Indiana. In some areas the roadway would irreparably damage unique geological features and wildlife habitats, and all routes would destroy or divide family farms.Northeast routes M and O would cross the Hoosier National Forest’s acquisition boundary and run very near popular national forest and Martin State Forest recreation areas and trails. These routes would also cross Indiana’s karst region -– an area underlain by limestone bedrock where sinkholes, caves, sinking streams and springs are widespread. In the heart of this region is the Lost River karst area, a globally-significant karst region where up to a thousand sinkholes may occur in one square mile, where three national natural landmarks and Indiana’s second longest cave system are located, and where the Lost River runs underground for over 20 miles. Northwest routes B and C would run adjacent to the Glendale State Fish and Wildlife Area.
The loss of wildlife habitats, open spaces and other resources include:
- Up to 2,000 acres of forestland cleared
- 800 acres of floodplain filled and built on, resulting in increased impact from future floods
- 60 acres of wetlands lost – more loss for one of our rarest, yet most productive wildlife habitats
- Nearly 20 miles of streams disturbed or destroyed, including the East Fork of White River and tributaries, and the Lost River and its underground tributaries
- Almost 500 acres of karst features harmed or destroyed
- Critically important habitats for
- endangered grassland and forest birds – Loggerhead shrike, Barn owl, Cerulean warbler, Henslow’s sparrow;
- endangered insect-eating bats – the Indiana bat, Northern long-eared bat, gray bat and four other bat species;
- cave-dwelling species including the endangered Hoosier cavefish;
- endangered river species including the Lake sturgeon and five federally listed freshwater mussels.
- As many as 255 homes and 51 businesses lost
- Over 1,500 acres of farmland paved
acres of forestland cleared.
acres of farmland paved.
acres of karst features harmed or destroyed.
How to Make a Difference
Contact Governor Holcomb and INDOT Commissioner Joe McGuinness and tell them to suspend project planning and reevaluate the project’s need and impact given the more pressing needs for the state’s attention and resources.
Contact your state legislators and urge them to convey this same message to the Governor.
Read the joint comment letter to INDOT co-signed by 74 businesses and organizations.
Mid-States Corridor Web Site
Review documents and reports produced by the Mid-States Corridor project team at midstatescorridor.com.