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Environmental groups sue to block I-69 construction

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Environmentalists have filed a lawsuit aimed at stopping construction of the Interstate 69 extension in southern Indiana, claiming the project violates federal environmental laws.

Landowners affected by the I-69 project, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and the I-69 Accountability Project filed the suit in federal court in Indianapolis on Monday, a week after federal highway officials signed off on the final environmental review for the stretch from the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center to Bloomington.

The groups contend that the highway project threatens the endangered Indiana bat and violates the federal Endangered Species Act.

A spokesman for Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads said the group believes the state highway department underestimated in its count of nearly 1,500 geologic features such as sinkholes, caves and springs in the path of the latest approved section.

"I-69 should never have been routed through this extremely environmentally sensitive area," Thomas Tokarski said.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokeswoman Cher Elliott told The Herald-Times of Bloomington that the agency has "followed all state and federal guidelines" regarding the project.

Construction began in 2009 near Evansville on the first section of the planned 142-mile route between that city and Indianapolis. The project has been estimated to cost about $3 billion to complete.

In February, the Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads filed a lawsuit claiming the Army Corps of Engineers violated federal law by giving the state permission to fill wetlands and reroute streams along the I-69 route in Greene and Daviess counties.

That lawsuit, which is still pending in federal court, asked that the highway be rerouted to a less environmentally disruptive route along existing highways, U.S. 41 and Interstate 70.

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  • i 69
    Would you people stop complaining...
  • Wrong Problem
    Tom, your reasoning presents either a mode issue or a location issue. If so many people in bloomington need to get to Indy, or Indy to Bloomington or Indy to Evansville or whatever, then maybe they should live in these places instead of having me pay for their commute or perhaps we would be better served by a higher occupancy vehicle to transport them from place to place.
  • Me
    This is a Washington DC environmental firm that has limited local support. Don't get catch up in the language.
  • SIGH
    As I pointed out to the misguided citizens of Bloomington, I-69 is needed now, just as the previous project that widened SR 37 from Indianapolis to Bloomington was needed. Order of magnitude improvement in travel time. the US-41/I-70 routing INCREASES travel time over the more direct route. I checked the SR 37 routes Indy to Bloomington, and discovered that Old SR 37 is actually a bit shorter, but takes over twice as long! The same will happen with I-69 from Evansville to Indy - via US41/I-70 will take LONGER than I-69 via Bloomington. In this case, the two routes would be otherwise equal, but via Bloomington will be shorter, and hence quicker, than via Terre Haute. And everyone's already signed off on it - EPA included. So, give it up, already!
  • NAFTA
    The Highway from Mexico to Canada is to help the free trade between Canada, the US, and Mexico. So far I am wondering how anyone has been helped by NAFTA.
  • Pay Attention
    These environmental concerns were raised very early in the process, but officials were determined to disregard what grassroots people had to say and do as they darn well pleased. So here we are, many years later and many dollars spent later, and these same issues are still being raised. Let there be a lesson here: Behaving like a bully by failing to truly listen and thoughtfully address people's concerns means that time and money end up being wasted.
  • Sunk Cost
    Jeff, I have to agree with Joe. Spending $3 Billion so that we don't waste $10 Million is a fallacy of Sunk Cost logic.
  • Misguided
    Jeff, Citing money spent as a reason to continue spending money is a terrible reasoning. The US government obviously invested a lot of money in things, yet we just spent months and many news stories arguing how they should reduce spending and cut programs. Because you dug a hole doesn't mean you need to dig deeper to justify it.
  • Wrong Direction
    No, you cannot sue for ingnorant fiscal policy. The wheels to construct I-69 from Indy to E'ville was started under Bayh and continued under O'Bannon, Kernan and Daniels. Support for this interstate was bi-partisan and part of an overall Federal plan to extend the interstate from Canada to Mexico. To waste all the money spent on studies from the late 90s to date would be a total travesty and complete waste of taxpayer money. Now, that investment and work is paying for persons who would otherwise be unemployed or under-employed.
  • Wrong Direction
    Can we sue for ignorant fiscal policy?

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  1. The $104K to CRC would go toward debts service on $486M of existing debt they already have from other things outside this project. Keystone buys the bonds for 3.8M from CRC, and CRC in turn pays for the parking and site work, and some time later CRC buys them back (with interest) from the projected annual property tax revenue from the entire TIF district (est. $415K / yr. from just this property, plus more from all the other property in the TIF district), which in theory would be about a 10-year term, give-or-take. CRC is basically betting on the future, that property values will increase, driving up the tax revenue to the limit of the annual increase cap on commercial property (I think that's 3%). It should be noted that Keystone can't print money (unlike the Federal Treasury) so commercial property tax can only come from consumers, in this case the apartment renters and consumers of the goods and services offered by the ground floor retailers, and employees in the form of lower non-mandatory compensation items, such as bonuses, benefits, 401K match, etc.

  2. $3B would hurt Lilly's bottom line if there were no insurance or Indemnity Agreement, but there is no way that large an award will be upheld on appeal. What's surprising is that the trial judge refused to reduce it. She must have thought there was evidence of a flagrant, unconscionable coverup and wanted to send a message.

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  5. http://www.abcactionnews.com/news/duke-energy-customers-angry-about-money-for-nothing

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