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Groups file suit to stop I-69 work downstate

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Even with work on the Interstate 69 extension proceeding  in earnest downstate, environmental and citizens groups are suing to stop construction of the 142-mile link between Evansville and Indianapolis.

The complaint filed this week in U.S. District Court by Hoosier Environmental Council and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads seeks to overturn a permit the Army Corps of Engineers issued for the $3 billion project.

The groups say the permit authorized the Indiana Department of Transportation “to destroy valuable natural resources” by rerouting streams and filling wetlands in the path of the new highway in Daviess and Greene counties.

They contend the Army Corps of Engineers never completed an independent alternatives analysis for the route, such as improving existing U.S. 41 and I-70. Such a route would cost $1 billion less and reduce environmental damage by 60 percent, they claim.

“If our action is successful, the state of Indiana will have to consider alternatives to the chosen route that have less environmental impact on rivers and wetlands,” said Tim Maloney, senior policy director of HEC.

The odds of halting work on the new terrain route appear steep, however. INDOT’s contractors have completed a 1.7- mile stretch of I-69 northeast of Evansville. It’s part of a $700 million segment from Evansville to Crane that’s scheduled for completion next year.

INDOT officials said they had yet to review the lawsuit and declined comment.

An opponent of such a project might use a strategy such as seeking a temporary restraining order, although “you’d have to really show injury” in federal court to succeed, said John Krauss, a professor of public and environmental affairs and adjunct professor of law at IUPUI.

The controversial I-69 extension faces other challenges down the road, including a lack of funding for the section between the Bloomington area and Indianapolis, and for much of the stretch north of Crane. The southernmost section is being funded in part from proceeds of the $3.8 billion lease of the Indiana Toll Road.

INDOT has been trying to stretch its funding by deferring some overpasses and rest stops, and has invited contractors to offer bids using asphalt as well as the concrete that’s traditionally considered superior for new-terrain interstates. Other ideas include thinner pavement in shoulders and passing lanes.

HEC and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads also say the new-terrain route poses particular environmental dangers in the hilly region near Bloomington. Last March, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told INDOT that “streams and karst features are resources of concern.” Karst topography is a landscape shaped by the dissolution of a layer or layers of soluble bedrock.

“Construction may have started, but it is unlikely I-69 will ever be finished unless INDOT diverts a major share of the state’s dwindling highway dollars away from badly needed road and bridge repairs around the state,” CARR president Thomas Tokarski said in a statement.

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  • Still not correct
    Highways are not safe. It has been proven that the faster, wider and longer you make a roadway, the more likely it will be to have accidents. The only way truckers are going to sustain their profit margins will be to raise prices. Now food and other goods will rise to a point where it becomes even more of a strain to low income workers of which any "new" jobs along the interestate will provide. Arguing that because the situation isn't optimal for higher efficiency travel means you should cater to an outdated model doesn't make sense. Doing something wrong because it exists wrong is not a good growth model. We will learn in time how truly devastating this project will be. At what point does a community realize a highway is not economic development. Look to San Fransico, arguably one of the most urban environments and opposed to highway funding is home to several high tech high wage jobs and corporations. They don't look to highways. The boom in jobs is high tech, information based jobs, and they need no roads, just the information super highway. So in the coming years when we are billions in the hole from this project and paying millions more in incentives to locate the next $15 an hour warehousing job, look to this day. Look to this decision and figure out if this was an investment, or a tax on all of the state!
  • @Joe et all
    Building roads in this area of the state that are safer and larger with easier turn on and offs IS progress for this area. This region can't support rail, or mass transit or whatever else you think would be better than this. It's too spread out to sustain stops, and daily runs.

    I'm not even thinking of the immediate gas stations and such as economic development. Have you asked some of the recent companies that have opened in Crane Tech Park, and Bloomington who are partnering with NAVSEA/Crane as to why they chose some of those locations...due to proximity of the planned I69. That is one of the reasons. This will continue to spurn smaller M&D companies, warehouses, and operations along the route.

    The trucking industry, while hurting now, will be fine. They have learned from the spike in prices over the years. They have shed their old fleet, enhanced current trailers, routes, and altered their plans and routes to cushion their operations if another time of $4 and higher gas comes along. Look no further than Wabash National and Celadon trucking. Two companies in Indiana who are beating analysts expectations and having some of the best numbers they have had in a long while while being industry leaders in their own right.

    I-69 will bring more benefits, but the biggest, and all of us who have to travel it know it, is safety. Safety from other drivers, people passing illegally and around tractors, animals and dangerous curves.
  • all wrong!
    Your comment is exactly what is incorrect about this situation. Cars are the least efficent form of travel. Everybody moving in the same general direction in individual vehicles made to carry 5 people and have 3 times the power necessary are not efficent. The most efficent form of transportation would be by bike, it provides the least cost and infrastructure requirements while delivering an increased work load. I don't care what you think you need, but I don't want to pay for it. If you think you need this highway, then find a cool $3 billion and pay for it yourself! Don't try to produce an arguement that is full of dishonest incorrect information.
  • People need to get somewhere
    As a person who must drive to get from place to place as part of MY JOB (yes, some of us are employed), roads fulfill their job of allowing us to get from one spot to another in the most efficient manner. If you don't like this, why not move out west to enjoy your scenery? Please forgive my harshness, but if all of the environmental opponents had their way, rush hour would feature everyone in gridlock on two-land roads (all of those cars and trucks idling and going no where would be better for the environment, right??) Please quit trying to dictate to me what your think I need.
    • Myopic History Report
      the I-69 did not original under governor Daniels; additionally which democratic governor approved the path of I-69?? If you're going to party bash, at least get your facts straight.
    • misguided!
      Mike,

      How would you classify building more roads as moving forward? It is a technology used for hundreds of years, built by people who's only job is to engineer and build roads that never seem to last. The myth of economic activity surrounding roads has no merrit. If you consider a gas station and hotel economic development, then use $3 billion to buy a nice hotel and gas station. The trucking industry is hurting and will decline with increased fuel costs. If you think this is progression then somewhere in your progressive education you took a nap!
    • Wrong!
      Road building does NOT create jobs. Road building lobbyists are among the most powerful in the state. The only way road projects keep jobs is to constantly have road projects. Any company that will locate along this route will be exisiting in the state and just relocate with tax payer incentive meaning we will pay more for the same service, though that is to be common with republicans. Keep in mind this project is more than $3 billion. Money that could have gone to improving our existing infrastructure, education, employment or anything worthwhile. Anyone in support of this project has been severly brainwashed. I don't mean forced to believe a certain way, I mean they no longer have a brain. This is a dead end project forcing the state into continuous decline. Our future of opoor investments and low wage jobs grows! All hail Mitch and his faithful republican morons!
      • MikeW - Right On!
        Amen. The HREC could and should use the money wasted on a lost fight and put it to much better use. This highway's reach is 100+ miles long but it's only a few hundred feet wide, at the most. It's environmental impact is incredibly minor for all of this legal wrangling.

        If for some silly reason, this project is abandoned and the I-70/US41 "dogleg" / boondoggle is chosen, maybe the HEC will explain to the hundreds of homeowners and businesses along 41 that it's all for the environment. BTW - fewer homes / businesses will be taken for the new terrain route. Just sayin'
      • To Why?
        The reason a lot of us who travel that stretch on a weekly basis want this road, is so that we can still enjoy the beautiful scenery surrounding the interstate without DYING. There are too many people who take those alternative roads to get south who do not drive like it is a smaller, more scenic roads, therefore it is unsafe and too many people have died. We need a safer road, and a larger road. Traffic is increasing as Crane and the southern region continue to develop. I would be all for stopping this, if we still had people who followed the rules, speed limits, and about 40% less traffic on it.

        We need I69. These Wetlands and rivers are features that NO ONE just randomly goes and visits. If HECouncil wants to protect these or people to benefit from these features, why don't they spend their lawsuit money on advertising and education of the vast amount of resources that are still scattered throughout this entire state. This road will not degrade our state or its environmental resources. They could even use this money to divert people off of new I69 to go visit neighboring environmental sites. Lets get it done and stop stalling. It'll be 2020 before its anywhere near done. Quit fighting it. Dam, why is this state so averse to change and progressing and improving.
        • Progress
          Goodness Sakes. If this ECC group had their way,we'd likely still be in the wilderness.

          This is an economic issue and I-69 will significantly help the state and the southwest corner population of the state to participate in the new evolving economy.

          I-70 and 41 together lack the straight line direction to remedy the issue.

          There is a historical reason that Indiana has lacked the historical vision to compete as effectively as other states, and that's because of a "stand pat and resistance to change" mentality. Let's go forward!!!
          • WHY?
            We are already the Crossroads of America! Do we need to restate that over and over again to prove a point by adding more roads than we need? Lets make it a straight shot from Mexico to Canada for drugs... Lets take more "green" (grass/trees/land) and make it "black" (pavement/tires)?

            What ever happened to taking scenic roots just to enjoy instead of boring, straight roads that put you to sleep?
            • We Need I-69!!!!
              I-69 further connects the midwest and further more, connects countries, making Indianapolis and Indiana more attractive for larger companies to locate manufacturing and warehousing facilities here, resulting in jobs and tax revenues. If you don't like it move to state where there are few roads to worry about. Remember, you live in the crossroads of american folks.
              • WHY?
                Honestly, I'm tired of the waste! We have plenty of roads already leading into the "Crossroads of America!" Take a look at how many highways that already lead to Indianapolis. When is enough ENOUGH? Fix what we have and quit wasting MY tax dollars on "frivolous desires!" Time to do what everyone else has had to do and that's quit spending what we don't have! Quit digging deeper into MY pockets as a tax payer and owner of 3 businesses! When building a road only a select group benefit from the money for the project. Why not LOWER taxes so that EVERYONE can benefit? Geesh! Stopthe foolishness and STOP wasting MY Money!

                P.S. I'm not a member of CARR or HEC. I'm "Susie Q. Citizen" and deserve a BREAK!
              • frivolous
                My original post must have upset some tree huggers. At any rate, it IS about jobs both long and short term. bda1205 is right on! When this frivolous suit is tossed hopefully the HEC and CARR will have to pay the legal costs, all the way around! Build it and they will come. The "they" is jobs (and clueless protesters).
              • Got no money honey
                INDOT will never admit it, but this un-necessary waste of a highway is draining funds from every county in the state. Funds for projects everywhere are being funneled into the I-69 project. Terms such as deferred or delayed are used when needed projects in other counties are mis-directed to I-69.

                I applaud these groups for taking this action and will support them. Ideally, a rail system is needed, not another highway. Indiana has yet to participate in any mass transit project. It's about time we start. Glad to see the opposition to this disastrous project is still very strong.
              • STOP I69 = STOP THE DRUGS
                The Evansville area is one of the few remaining areas not ruined by the flow of drugs out of Detroit down I69. Either put in TSA drug sniffing sensors to stop the drugs or stop the highway.
              • Get your head out of the clouds
                The intent of the road is to create jobs. Initially, in the construction of the road and then along the road as it will be more attractive to companies wanting to build because it will be easier for them to ship their product.
                Let's not forget that this is part of a much bigger project to connect countries through all of the states in between expanding the potential job-growth impact even more. This is not the time to waste more tax payer money to defend in court what these groups have already lost time and time again during the decision making process.
                Maybe we as tax payers should sue the HEC & CARR groups to say you already had your say and lost, now sit down and shut up and let the rest of us to get on with our lives.
                • Should be a Train
                  Stop the Road, if anything it should be a Train.
                • Lets Stop 69 & 465 North Side Too...!!!
                  Great News! We need to start creating Jobs that create other long term jobs, with in the foundation of our existing communities, spend our tax dollars in and up, not out and down. This larger outgrowth model is creating the National deficit and all the problems. By creating form based finance for our interior community redevelopments, we can spend a quarter of our tax dollars, save money and get large ROI not continue to leap frog farther and farther out. Smart Leaders Create Smart Growth which Equals Economic Development!
                • Ya thanks a lot
                  As Me says, thanks for wasting taxpayer money
                • we're broke
                  Isn't the State short on cash? Ending this project seems like a wise move. Let's fix our existing roads and bridges first.
                • thanks
                  Thanks for wasting tax payer money.....

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