CARR, McANA, SWPCA
The Indiana Department of Transportation's (INDOT) latest cost projections for the southernmost three sections of the Evansville-to-Indianapolis new terrain I-69 highway reveal at least a doubling of costs. Since these sections are the least expensive of the entire route, a conservative estimate of the cost of the project between Evansville and Indianapolis is now $3.6 billion.
When the Evansville-to-Henderson, Ky., segment is added, the total Indiana cost for I-69 is at least $4 billion.
"The new cost data reveals that the highway now has a negative benefit-cost ratio, with costs exceeding benefits by billions of dollars."
The new Ohio River Bridge alone, needed for I-69, is now estimated to cost as much as $1.4 billion, according to an Oct. 22, 2008 article in the Evansville Courier & Press. The cost of the I-69 segment from I-64 to Henderson will be shared by Indiana and Kentucky. Due to the high cost, the Kentucky Legislature is considering requiring tolling on the bridge, even while the Indiana Legislature considers banning tolling.
These are conservative estimates, since all costs are not yet known, most notably the costs of traversing the karst-rich Section 4 through Greene and Monroe counties and the cost to purchase the right-of-way in the urbanized Section 6, from Martinsville to Indianapolis. Two years ago, our organizations submitted a press release stating that the cost of the I-69 highway would double. Our projection has been validated by INDOT's recent studies.
The new cost projections are contained in INDOT's recent Tier 2, Draft Environmental Impact Statements (DEIS) for Sections 2 and 3. These Sections run from near Oakland City to U.S. 231 in Greene County. The southernmost 1.8 miles of the route in Section 1 is now under construction.
"The new Ohio River Bridge alone, needed for I-69, is now estimated to cost as much as $1.4 billion"
INDOT has long claimed, based on earlier economic models, that the new-terrain I-69 benefits would be worth an estimated $2 billion. In 2003, for example, the state asserted that the highway had a slightly positive benefit-cost ratio. The new cost data reveals that the highway now has a negative benefit-cost ratio, with costs exceeding benefits by billions of dollars.
In light of INDOT's new cost estimates, we call upon the state to perform a new benefit-cost analysis before proceeding further with the project. Besides being a huge waste of tax dollars, I-69 is a money sink that would drain funds for needed projects from around Indiana with little or no benefits to the state.
"Billions of dollars wasted on a project that cannot generate a positive return on investment, while local streets have been neglected for decades due to lack of funds, is simply obscene," said Pat Andrews, Vice-President of McANA.
In an attempt to cut costs for the highway, INDOT also proposes several design and construction materials changes.
"The shortsighted approach of using lesser grade materials in a rush to build I-69 will place an even greater burden on taxpayers in the future."
Some of their changes, as listed in the Tier 2, DEIS for Section 3, appendix D, are:
- Construction of some interchanges would be deferred until the need arises and funds become available.
- Construction of the interchange at U.S. 231 would be deferred until Section 4 is complete.
- Interchange at I-64 will be built to a lesser standard.
- Mainline pavement and shoulders would be asphalt instead of concrete.
- Less costly bridge beam materials would be used.
- Bridges will be shorter.
- Median and shoulders are narrowed.
- There would be a narrower clear zone.
- Rest stop removed.
The state now realizes it cannot afford even the least expensive segments of I-69. In spite of these attempts to cheapen the project, the total costs will rise dramatically. At the same time, some of the stated goals of the project, such as accessibility, are diminished.
"In light of INDOT's new cost estimates, we call upon the state to perform a new benefit-cost analysis before proceeding further with the project. "
Dramatically increasing the costs and lowering the design standards without changing the economic models is deceptive and unethical. Deferring construction only puts off the costs, which will continue to increase. Calling the cheaper alternative the "low-cost" alternative is simply wrong. This is a clear case of the deceptive practice of bait-and-switch.
Building a cheaper I-69 increases the annual maintenance costs. The shortsighted approach of using lesser grade materials in a rush to build I-69 will place an even greater burden on taxpayers in the future.
While our organizations do not support the construction of the new-terrain I-69 at any cost, we do support truth in government. Only if citizens and public officials have accurate and complete information can they make good decisions on the worth and feasibility of publicly funded projects.
If the state is truly interested in a low-cost alternative it should use the US-41/I-70 route. That alternative would cost roughly half as much as the new terrain route.
"If the state is truly interested in a low-cost alternative it should use the US-41/I-70 route."
Another area of concern is the estimate of costs for operation and maintenance. In the Tier 1, FEIS for the entire 142-mile route, the operation and maintenance costs were estimated at $2.6 million annually. That averages out to $18,000 per mile.
The two recent DEISs give only "Maintenance" costs. In the DEIS for Sections 2 and 3 the maintenance costs alone are estimated at $3,000 per lane mile or $12,000 per four-lane highway mile.
And what happened to the "Operation" costs? Is it possible that the operation and maintenance costs could decrease by $6,000 per mile while the cost of everything else has increased? The state needs to disclose the total maintenance and operation costs for this project.
Full disclosure is especially important since the new design calls for the pavement to be asphalt, not concrete, as originally planned. Asphalt has a shorter useable life span than concrete.
The American Concrete Pavement Association states: "An asphalt road requires maintenance every two to four years and resurfacing every eight to 14 years. The concrete road requires relatively little maintenance. Depending on usage, it may require some minor rehab every 12 to 16 years, but won't need to be resurfaced for 30, 40, or even 50 years. Over time, the average asphalt pavement can cost up to three times more than an equivalent concrete pavement."
Thomas Tokarski, President of CARR stated: "In today's changing world the plan to spend billions of dollars on I-69 is completely irresponsible. The plan should be dropped before any more money is spent on it. There are so many other needed transportation projects where the money would be better spent."
For More Information
- Thomas Tokarski, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, 812-825-9555,
- Pat Andrews, Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (McANA), 317-856-3341
- Bill Boyd, SW Perry Civic Association (SWPCA), 317-888-4658
- American Concrete Pavement Association