Fed review finds Indiana highway land deals compliant

A review published Wednesday found the prices that Indiana paid to buy land for the Interstate 69 extension and other federally funded highway projects met federal standards.

The Federal Highway Administration report found Indiana Department of Transportation records were adequate and sufficient to support prices paid to landowners and that the state records substantially complied with federal record-keeping guidelines.

In four cases, INDOT records were missing some documents that the agency eventually provided the review team comprised of FHA real estate staff based in Washington, D.C., Indiana, Georgia and Texas and members of INDOT's own real estate staff.

The review covered 50 land purchases over the last three years for projects that included the Interstate 69 extension to Evansville, the Hoosier Heartland Corridor in northern Indiana and the U.S. 31 expansion in Hamilton County north of Indianapolis.

The review began after The Indianapolis Star reported last year that INDOT had offered $7 million for 32 properties that appraisers had valued at $3.34 million.

INDOT already has taken steps to address issues identified during the review, the state agency said, "by supplementing parcel files with additional documentation, initiating an update of INDOT's Real Estate Manuals and planning to offer comprehensive right-of-way training for staff and consultants."

INDOT said in a news release that, "The report recommends that appraisers review any counter offers and additional written notices be provided to property owners."

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