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Green group: I-69 will drain money from other projects

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Indiana's 142-mile extension of Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Evansville will siphon hundreds of millions of dollars away from other road and bridge projects in coming years, according to a report from an environmental group.

The report by the Hoosier Environmental Council concludes that the highway's nearly $3 billion estimated cost will consume one-fifth of funding available for state highway construction and maintenance projects between 2012 and 2014. In 2013 alone, nearly 30 percent of Indiana's highway funds will go toward I-69, the report said.

The result will be that many projects across the rest of the state will be stuck in "shovel ready" mode, or never leave the drawing board, said Tim Maloney, the council's senior policy director.

Maloney said in the report released Monday that dedicating a fifth of the state's highway funds to a single project over the next few years "will imperil the state's ability to fulfill its responsibility to provide safe and reliable transportation solutions to other areas of Indiana."

By the time Gov. Mitch Daniels leaves office in January 2013, Indiana will have spent nearly $1 billion to build about 90 miles to the highway between Evansville and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center in Martin County, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

That means Daniels' successor will be left to figure out how to pay to finish the remaining sections and determine the pace at which that work will be completed.

A spokesman for Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Pence, who is running to succeed Daniels, said the congressman will unveil more detailed plans for how he would handle the remaining stretch of the I-69 extension closer to the 2012 elections.

For now, Pence said he considers the project a top priority and has supported it since late Gov. Frank O'Bannon announced the planned route in January 2003.

"I have always believed that roads mean jobs," he said. "... Finishing I-69 will create jobs in Indiana, and I believe this project should be completed."

Former Indiana House Speaker John Gregg of Sandborn, a Democrat who is considering running for governor, is still catching up on issues related to the highway but considers the highway project "extremely important," said spokesman Steve Campbell.

"Every time he's in Southern Indiana, he says this comes up. He's talked to people in Bloomington and Evansville, all up and down the route. He wants to get back up to speed," Campbell said.

Jim Wallace, a Fishers businessman who is also running for governor, called the I-69 extension "one of the top priorities, I think, for economic development for the state."

He said he is working on a set of infrastructure projects the state could complete for $500 million and will announce that in the fall.

Daniels has been able to build the first four sections of I-69 at such a rapid pace because of the state's 2006 leasing of the Indiana Toll Road in northern Indiana for 75 years that generated $3.85 billion to speed up projects across the state.

Of that money, $700 million was set aside for I-69. That will cover much of the roughly $1 billion to build it between Evansville and Crane

That money, though, will have run out by the time the next governor is looking to pay for what's left.

Because the state isn't far along in the planning process on those sections, no detailed and up-to-date cost estimate exists.

However, based on plans released in recent years, the cost of building the highway between Crane and Indianapolis would likely be between $800 million and $1.7 billion, with much of that coming in the suburban area closest to Indianapolis.

Will Wingfield, a spokesman for the Indiana Department of Transportation, said the state might have a draft environmental impact statement started, or even finished, by the time Daniels leaves office.

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  • opposing his ideology
    I don't oppose building the roads, altough there are better projects out there for $3B than I-69. I oppose his hobbit ideology that says that government can't do anything right, and the fact that he does not want to pay for it but then gladly accepts funding. According to his ideology, we should let private sector build a toll road. So be it!
  • Get Over It
    Get over it people, the road is gonna get built. It has already been started and they aren't going to leave a stub from Evansville to Bloomington. The connection to 465 will happen now or later. Move on to your next enviro-hysteria de jour.
  • YEAH for Interstates
    I-69 extension will take maintenance monies from other highways in the state as I-65 took from US31 south and US52 and US41 north, I-69 north from SR37, I-70 from US40, I-74 from US50 and US136, and I-465 from what? Shadeland Ave?? I am thankful maintenance dollars were diverted from these old technology highways that are less safe to travel and would take considerably more time to get from point A to B under the same traffic density as we now see on the interstates.
    If new highways do not create new jobs then what is the result of General Motors building an assembly plant in Fort Wayne at I-69 and I-469 interchange, numerous distribution warehouses along I-65 between Indy and Lebanon, Subaru (SIA) building an assembly plant in Lafayette on I-65, Honda building an assembly plant in Greensburg on I-74, etc.? These companies want good and easily accessible transportation routes so they can be competitive in the marketplace, without good highways we would not have seen the jobs all of these companies brought to Indiana.
    To me, those opposing the I-69 extension to Evansville also oppose the addition of jobs in the areas served by the new highway. I admit it will save time not having to travel to the back hills of Tennessee to see trees, rivers, mountains, and poverty by keeping all of these in southwest Indiana, but if I-69 is built the only one of these to be reduced in an appreciable amount is poverty.
  • YEAH FOR I-69
    You guys are nuts! I-69 not only is one of the best ideas and will increase business in the areas, but will bring more traffic and more tourists!! This will bring more JOBS and MONEY!! Thank You for those who continue to support this needed road!
  • The drain continues
    SO we are told that no matter who succeeds Mitch, we will be stuck digging our own grave. Roads don't create meaningful jobs and lose money annually. We have thousands of miles of roads that don't have any jobs along them, why are we dumping more onto the market? Why will this be different? Why are the tight republicans and tea partiers supporting a $3 BILLION project when Indiana is bleeding jobs and education and income? If you vote for anyone who supports this project, you have voted Indiana at a loss. What a joke of a state and leader.
  • hobbit
    I thought Pence was a tea party hobbit. I guess he is ok with government subsidizing Indiana car drivers. He just doesn't want to pay for it.

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