What follows is the full text of the statement that the I-69 citizens coalition delivered to Gov. Joe Kernan on Friday.
October 22, 2004
To: Honorable Governor Joseph Kernan
Distinguished Members of the Indiana General Assembly
From: Citizens of Indiana opposed to the new terrain I-69
We write to voice our strenuous opposition to the new terrain I-69 highway and growing resolve to compel you, our state's political leaders, to stop this outrageous assault on the peace of mind and future of so many hardworking Hoosiers. Our numbers are growing daily. More voting taxpayers are becoming aware of the $2.5 billion price tag of this highway — its limited benefits, and the destruction it will bring to these Hoosiers' homes, farms, businesses, and rural communities, as well as the natural heritage of all Hoosiers — and its direct relation to special interests.
The new terrain I-69 will cost $2.5 billion. Building it will bring most, if not all, other road construction in Indiana to a halt without a major increase in gas taxes. We are at a complete loss to understand why the state insists on consigning virtually its entire budget for new roads to one road that its own facts clearly do not justify.
How can 'fiscally responsible' public officials sink $2.5 billion on an interstate that, according to their own 2003 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), will save 12 minutes in travel time over the alternative of upgrading US 41 and I-70, particularly when this alternative will cost less than half as much and avoid this destruction?
Why is the state trying to build a new highway across southwest Indiana that, according to the exhaustive Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study of 1988, will draw as much as 40 percent of the current traffic away from businesses and local economies along US 41? Governor, the businesses and economies along US 41 are more depressed than businesses and local economies that will be displaced or destroyed by the new highway!
Furthermore, what are the grounds for asserting the new terrain highway is needed for economic prosperity in any corridor, given that the EIS found that real disposable income for those living near the new highway will not differ significantly from their income if no new highway were built at all?
According to the EIS, the new terrain highway will wipe out 400 homes, 76 non-farm businesses, 5,100 acres of farms, and 1,740 acres of forest and wetlands. Numerous threatened and endangered species that the government spends money to protect, in places such as the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge, will be placed further at risk by the highway, an impact that would be avoided entirely by an interstate along US 41.
You have yet to answer any of these questions, Governor.
It is the human environment that will suffer perhaps the most from building a new-terrain interstate. Instead of building the interstate in an established highway corridor where the impacts of highway traffic and related development already occur, the promoters of the new terrain I-69 want to use our transportation dollars to invade and erase a pristine rural landscape that is growing increasingly scarce in our beloved Indiana.
Air quality in this new travel corridor will deteriorate with huge increases in truck and car traffic. Noise and light pollution will increase dramatically. Highway accidents, fatalities and injuries will increase, not decrease. Some 135 roads will be closed, impairing school bus routes, emergency response times, and local travel, as well as increasing safety problems and costs to counties and businesses.
All of these impacts to people and nature will be greatly magnified if the new-terrain highway promoters' primary objective — to develop lands that are not now accessible — is realized.
Concerns now being raised by the new terrain highway's promoters that Crane Naval Weapons Ammunition Depot may be closed if I-69 is not built near it are a scare tactic that is in fact opposite the truth. Crane is thriving and increasing in employment and importance. Most military base closures, however, have occurred on or near interstates. It is urban sprawl and development around military bases, the very objective of the new-terrain highway promoters, that puts bases at greater risk of closure.
In short, numerous publicly funded studies have found that there are no legitimate reasons for spending $2.5 billion public tax dollars to build I-69 on new terrain between Indianapolis and Evansville.
The public knows it and is angry that both major political parties in Indiana are ignoring this reality. We have vastly outnumbered those supporting the new terrain I-69 route in every comment period that has occurred for this project. In the latest comment period on the EIS, for every one person who wrote in favor of the new terrain highway, fifteen wrote against it!
Governor Kernan, we don't understand you. We don't understand why you are supporting the new terrain highway or why our views matter so little to you. But we are not going to let the next Indiana governor, whoever he is, treat us this way. The citizens will not be ignored any longer. We will fight any initiative to fund this outrageous and unjustified highway at any level and in every hall of government. And we will hold our political officials fully accountable for the actions they take or don't take on this issue so vitally important to our lives.
This letter was composed by Jeff Stant and was signed by citizens who attended Friday's rally in Indianapolis. Bloomington Alternative editor Steven Higgs contributed to its preparation.