Photograph by Steven Higgs

INDOT first proposed the Southwest Indiana Highway turned I-69 turned NAFTA Highway in July 1989. After 20 years and 10s of millions of dollars squandered, less than two miles of roadway have been graded and a couple hundred feet of concrete ramp laid.

The last time anyone from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) told the truth about the new-terrain Interstate 69/NAFTA Highway from Evansville to Bloomington was 20 years ago this week. On July 19, 1989, an Iowa consultant hired by the agency gathered a room full of Southwest Indiana public officials in Evansville to share the results of a feasibility study. Their conclusion: none of the routes evaluated “have a good enough cost-benefit ratio to justify their construction,” the Bloomington Herald-Times reported the next day.

But before the “Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study” had been bound and formally released seven months later, liars, thieves and bullies hijacked the process. And in the two decades since honest professionals told them that Hoosier taxpayers cannot afford Evansville’s political blackmail, a bipartisan coalition of pork-meisters have flipped tens of millions of taxpayer dollars back and forth, reduced the noble acts of public comment and participation to thumb-twiddling, taken and destroyed four families’ homes, graded 1.77 miles of land and laid a couple hundred feet of concrete.

They have also transformed our political system from a reasonably functioning democracy into an emerging fascist state, whose purpose is to fund and defend their interests. In 1989, public officials respected the public so much that they commissioned unbiased, professional studies of major public works projects and let citizens see the results at the same time they did, in public. In 2009, they are charging 20-something kids as organized criminals for shouting at meetings and picking up office furniture inside a building and dropping it outside in the parking lot.


First in a series
Part 2: The future, according to the Tokarskis

So vile have been their tactics that when Gov. Mitch Daniels “broke ground” on the highway in July 2008, highway boosters had to scoop up a truckload of earth from the I-69 construction site and dump it inside an Evansville building so the governor and his cronies could stick shovels, not in the ground of a soon-to-be roadbed, but in a pile of sheltered dirt. Daniels and his highway booster buddies/campaign financiers were so afraid of the public resentment their venality has spawned that they celebrated their “success” out of the sun and, fittingly, surrounded by gunmen, just like organized criminals.

As the chronology of the I-69/NAFTA Highway struggle below shows, this episode in Indiana history has indeed been, as Sandra Tokarski from Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads told The Bloomington Alternative in June 2005, a “serious threat to democracy.”

It’s actually been a lot more. It’s been a crime, and the real criminals need to be held accountable.

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.


Editor’s note: The following chronology of events surrounding the Interstate 69/NAFTA Highway were culled from news reports published in The Bloomington Alternative, Bloomington Herald-Times and the Associated Press, as well as from Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) files.



1966

A study titled "North-South Toll Road Feasibility Study" concludes "none of the alternative alignments examined would be financially feasible" for a Southwest Indiana highway.


1980

A study titled "The Western Indiana Toll Road Feasibility Study" concluded "none of the alternatives would produce enough revenue to be financially feasible" and recommended that "existing roads in the area receive priority for improvement."


1982

A report from the Indiana Department of Highways (DoH) titled "Indianapolis-Evansville Improved North-South Corridor Feasibility Report by Indiana DoH” assessed the feasibility of an improved north-south corridor "in terms of vehicle travel time saved and the cost of construction” and concluded that “the project was not feasible."


1985

A study titled “Feasibility Study, SR 37 From I-64 to SR 60” recommended one route for consideration. One of the major reasons given for this recommendation was the “traffic that this route would serve Patoka Reservoir and the proposed Tillery Hill Recreation Area.” Tillery Hill was later scrapped by state officials.


1988

March

Republican Gov. Robert D. Orr’s Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) issues a "Statement of Interest" for a study on the feasibility of building the Southwest Indiana Highway.

August

Donohue & Associates of Waterloo, Iowa, along with Cambridge Systematics from Massachusetts and Congdon Engineering Associates from Indianapolis, begin a year-long feasibility study for a major new highway connecting Evansville with Indianapolis.

November

Democrat Evan Bayh defeats Republican John Mutz for governor.


1989

July

Donohue consultants release the conclusions of the “Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study,” a.k.a. the Donohue Study, to public officials at a meeting in Evansville, telling them none of three potential routes had a good enough cost-benefit ratio to justify construction. Public officials vow to continue the fight for a highway.


1990

January

Gov. Evan Bayh proposes using lottery money to fund a new four-lane highway from Bloomington to Evansville.

February

The “Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study” is released and recommends none of the alternatives for construction. The study, however, includes a 16-page addendum that contained data from a consultant hired by the Evansville Chamber of Commerce that recast the report’s assumptions and concluded the highway was feasible. The report’s authors wrote, in all caps: "THE FOLLOWING ADDENDUM IS BEING INCLUDED AS AN ATTACHMENT TO THIS REPORT AT THE REQUEST OF THE INDIANA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION. THIS ADDENDUM DOES NOT REPRESENT THE WORK PRODUCT OF DONOHUE, CAMBRIDGE SYSTEMATICS OR CONGDON ENGINEERING, AND THESE FIRMS DO NOT ENDORSE IT."

March

U.S. Rep. Frank McCloskey, D-Eighth, testifies in favor of the Southwest Indiana Highway at a House subcommittee meeting on Surface Transportation.

April

Gov. Bayh ignores the Donohue authors’ conclusions and selects consultants Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates of Evansville, D.E. McGillem & Associates of Columbus, Ind., and Burgess & Niple Ltd. of Columbus, Ohio, to begin work on the project.

October

Landowners with property on the highway’s proposed route form Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR).

December

At meetings in Bloomington, INDOT officials outline four possible routes for the Southwest Indiana Highway from Bloomington to Newberry.


1991

April

Congressman McCloskey and Democratic Evansville Mayor Frank McDonald testify in favor of Southwest Indiana Highway at a House subcommittee on transportation. Phillip Foster from CARR testifies against it, saying tax dollars could be better spent on upgrading existing roads and other priorities, like education.

May

INDOT includes the Bloomington-Evansville highway on its Highway Improvement Program list, with construction set for 1996.

June

An Indiana limestone industry spokesman objects to the highway’s proposed route, saying $1 billion worth of limestone could be lost if it cut through quarry land, as proposed.

November

Congress earmarks $28 million for I-69 in a highway bill known as the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA). It designates the Southwest Indiana Highway as part of a High Priority Corridor from Indianapolis to Memphis.


1992

February

INDOT Commissioner John Dillon says during a stop in Bloomington that his agency is leaning toward the Route C alternative that would start at State Road 37 near Victor Pike south of Bloomington and follow a new-terrain path to State Road 57 in Newberry in western Greene County.

July

INDOT releases a copy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to the public. It calls for building new-terrain Route C from Bloomington to Newberry and then upgrading to four lanes State Road 57 south to Evansville. The highway would cost an estimated $800 million and take 1,575 acres of private land.

October

In response to citizen opposition in Monroe and Greene counties, Gov. Bayh and Rep. McCloskey announce construction will start in Evansville instead of Bloomington.

CARR, the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), the Hoosier Audubon Council, Sierra Club Uplands Group and Protect Our Woods propose the U.S. 41/I-70 Common Sense Alternative, which would follow the existing four-lane 41 from Evansville to Terre Haute and then follow I-70 to Indianapolis.

An Evansville newspaper/TV poll shows 38 percent of respondents feel I-69 is very important, 28 percent somewhat important, 11 percent only a little important and 23 percent not important at all.

November

Gov. Bayh is re-elected.

INDOT agrees to give highway opponents between 800 and 1,000 pages of documents related to the I-69 project after an attorney accuses the agency of "illegally withholding documents and information."

At a meeting in Memphis, highway boosters form the I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition to lobby for extending I-69 from Indianapolis to Houston.


1993

January

INDOT delays public hearings on the I-69 DEIS after the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) said the agency could not award Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates a contract for the study on the southern two segments without seeking competitive bids.

April

Both houses of the Indiana General Assembly pass resolutions asking Congress to take “speedy and appropriate action” to ensure I-69 gets funded.

May

INDOT proposes I-69 as one of four state projects for inclusion in the National Highway System, which would make it eligible for federal funding.

Congressman McCloskey asks Congress for $17.7 million to complete design and engineering work on I-69.

June

CARR says documents obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request shows INDOT bias in selecting Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates for I-69 engineering work. One memo from the Federal Highway Administration says extending I-69 would save only eight minutes of travel time compared with building a bypass around Terre Haute and upgrading U.S. 41.

October

Congress rescinds a $9 million earmark approved earlier in the session by a congressional committee for I-69 design and engineering.


1994

February

State transportation officials tell Congress that unless more federal money is made available, construction on I-69 will not begin until 1999, three years later than originally planned.

March

Highway supporters and opponents testify at a congressional hearing on I-69. Supporters say it would boost economic development and create jobs. Opponents argue the road is redundant and would impair dairy farms in at least one county.

May

The U.S. House of Representatives includes I-69 in National Highway System bill, but earmarks only $5 million for it.

November

Evansville Republican John Hostettler defeats Rep. McCloskey in the Eighth District Congressional race.


1995

February

“The Green Scissors Report” from Friends of the Earth and the National Taxpayers’ Union includes I-69 as one of the nation’s 10 biggest pork-barrel projects, calling it a “Choice Cut.”

July

During a program on WTIU television in Bloomington, INDOT Commissioner Stan Smith acknowledges that building I-69 would deplete the state’s entire highway budget.

Eighth District Rep. John Hostetler reneges on a campaign promise and refuses to allow highway opponents to testify before a congressional highway committee.

September

In Memphis, the I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition releases an Indianapolis-to-Laredo feasibility study that says I-69 will cost $5.5 billion and return $1.39 for every $1 invested.

October

State Sen. Tom Weatherwax, R-Logansport, proposes using federal highway funds to finish the Heartland Highway between Fort Wayne and Lafayette to interstate standards and then extend it southwest to four-lane State Road 63 to U.S. 41 on Terre Haute's north side.

November

FHWA rejects the I-69 DEIS, saying it does not adequately identify the highway’s purpose and need.

Congress passes a National Highway System bill that includes new terrain I-69 but earmarks no money for it.


1996

February

I-69 is again cited in the “Green Scissors Report” as wasteful government spending.

April

INDOT makes public an I-69 DEIS that prefers the Evansville-to-Bloomington segment of the highway. It would require the relocation of about 100 homes and take 5,000 acres of land, mostly farms and forests.

May

INDOT holds 10 public hearings on DEIS.

June

Highway opponents blast INDOT for beginning the search for an I-69 design firm before public hearings have been concluded.

July

The Bloomington Environmental Commission submits written comments that say the I-69 DEIS is so flawed that it needs to be redone. Among the concerns is its failure to evaluate the last leg from Bloomington to Indianapolis.

August

Highway opponents deliver nearly 71,000 telegrams and petition signatures to Gov. Bayh opposing I-69.

Comment period for DEIS concludes, with responses running 4-to-1 against the new terrain route.

September

Friends of the Earth and Taxpayers for Common Sense release “Road to Ruin” report that calls I-69 one of the nation’s most wasteful pork-barrel projects.

INDOT selects seven Indiana firms to draw up preliminary plans for I-69. CARR, HEC and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC) send letter to FHWA arguing that such actions violate the National Environmental Policy Act.

November

Democratic Lt. Gov. Frank O’Bannon is elected governor.

December

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the DEIS is “seriously deficient” and should be reworked. The agency could not agree with INDOT’s selection of the Evansville-to-Bloomington route as the preferred alternative.


1997

January

The Indiana Farm Bureau and city officials in Vincennes and Terre Haute send a letter to INDOT asking that the state drop the Evansville-to-Bloomington route and to stop spending money on design and engineering.

April

Two dozen southern Indiana legislators form the I-69 Legislative Coalition in the Indiana General Assembly to promote the new-terrain route.

May

IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs professor Neal Johnson releases a benefit/cost analysis that says I-69 costs will exceed benefits by 19 cents for every $1 spent.

June

Highway opponents urge Federal Highway Administration to form a panel of experts to resolve the competing claims about the highway’s economic benefits.

Friends of the Earth, Taxpayers for Common Sense and USPIRG release another “Road to Ruin” report that again lists I-69 as one of the top pork-barrel projects nationwide.

August

Highway supporters release the “Corridor 18 Special Issues Study” that says extending I-69 from Indianapolis to the Mexican border would produce $1.57 in benefits for every $1 spent on the project. Opponents call the report biased.

U.S. Rep. Ed Pease, R-Seventh, says new federal money for I-69 is unlikely.

September

Indiana farm groups send a letter to state and federal highway officials contending that the DEIS downplays impacts on farmland and that INDOT is avoiding a federal farmland protection law.

INDOT announces it has awarded engineering contracts for I-69 design work at a cost of $5.1 million. Opponents say the move proves the state is not seriously considering alternatives to the new-terrain route.

The I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition announces it has spent $480,000 on lobbying for I-69 in the past two years.

October

INDOT says it will cost almost as much to upgrade U.S. 41 from Evansville to Terre Haute as it would to build the new-terrain route from Evansville to Bloomington. Opponents say it will cost an additional $1 billion to upgrade State Road 37 from Bloomington to Indianapolis.

November

INDOT begins surveying for I-69 north of Evansville. Farmers object and ask the state to put money in escrow to fix any damage that could result from crews working on their lands.

Highway opponents release a report that says new-terrain I-69 would cause economic hardship for businesses and counties along U.S. 41 north of Evansville.


1998

January

I-69 once again makes the “Green Scissors Report” list of wasteful, pork-barrel projects.

February

Surveys by Democratic State Representatives Dennis Avery and John Frenz indicate their constituents prefer the U.S. 41/I-70 alternative over new-terrain by 29.6 percent to 28.2 percent. The survey results also show 21.9 percent favor a direct route from Evansville to Indianapolis along Ind. 57 and Ind. 67, 15.9 percent said to spend the money maintaining and improving existing roads, and 4.4 percent say do nothing.

April

A coalition of western Indiana groups announce plans to lobby state officials to relocate a planned I-69 extension along existing U.S. 41/I-70 roadways. They say it would cost about $400 million less and also boost the region's depressed economy. The coalition includes business and government officials from communities including Terre Haute, Sullivan, Vincennes, Shelburn, Farmersburg, Brazil, Greencastle and Plainfield.

On NBC Nightly News, Tom Brokaw labels the proposed new-terrain I-69 in Indiana a “Fleecing of America" that would "take you and your tax dollars for a billion-dollar ride.”

June

INDOT hires a Washington, D.C., law firm to help the state avoid legal challenges over the new-terrain I-69. The agency earmarks up to $150,000 for the contract.

July

ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings features the new-terrain I-69 as a waste of tax dollars in an "It's Your Money” segment.

September

The new federal transportation bill, called Transportation Enrolled Act 21, earmarks $27 million for the I-69 in Indiana. Congressman Hostettler had asked for $900 million for the whole Canada-to-Mexico route. According to Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Indiana, there will be no more federal transportation funds for the Indiana segment for six more years.

Six-hundred-and-ninety-two members of the Amish community in Daviess County send letter to Gov. O'Bannon asking him “not to damage our community and our way of life ... Most importantly, we respectfully ask you not to build the highway.”

November

INDOT discards the 1996 DEIS and begins a new study that will evaluate the full route from Evansville to Indianapolis, as well as the U.S. 41/I-70 alternative.


1999

January

The “Green Scissors Report” again includes the Indiana segment of I-69 as one of the nation’s most wasteful and environmentally destructive federal projects.

A study from the University of Illinois at Chicago finds that each job the new terrain I-69 might create in the four targeted counties would cost $1.5 million apiece. The study divided the estimated cost of the highway, $750 million, by the estimated 480 jobs it would create in Greene, Daviess, Pike and Gibson counties over 30 years.

February

INDOT stops work on the design and engineering work started in September 1997.

CARR Steering Committee member Andy Ruff files to run for Bloomington City Council.

April

Comments at a Bloomington City Council hearing on the new-terrain I-69 through Bloomington run 49-4 against.

The latest “Road to Ruin” report lists I-69 in Indiana as the fourth most wasteful highway project in the nation.

May

U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater announces Indiana will share a $10 million federal grant for environmental studies of the proposed I-69 extension south from Indianapolis to Mexico.

State and federal highway officials propose a two-phase approach to planning I-69. Phase 1 will involve selecting a highway corridor, and Phase 2 will include designing the project, segment by segment, and conducting studies of environmental and economic impact on each.

June

CARR, HEC and ELPC object in writing to INDOT’s two-tier approach as "unusual and unacceptable."

July

Mayor John Fernandez of Bloomington joins 21 other mayors in a letter of support from the pro-highway group Voice for I-69 to Gov. O'Bannon calling the highway a "golden corridor of commerce."

August

INDOT announces Indiana’s share of the I-69 federal grant announced in May is $1.25 million.

September

Bloomington Republicans propose an I-69 route that would follow State Road 67 and U.S. 231 from Indianapolis to I-64 near Evansville, thus bypassing Bloomington.

October

Highway opponents hold an I-69 Common Sense Conference in Indianapolis. Commissioners from Clay, Fountain, Owen, Putnam and Vigo Counties send a letter supporting the U.S. 41/I-70 route to all county commissioners in Indiana. The letter points out that spending $600 million more on the new terrain route would drain Indiana's limited road funds.

November

INDOT awards a $7.7 million contract for new I-69 DEIS study to Bernardin Lochmuller & Associates.

Six of the nine candidates elected to the Bloomington City Council are opposed to putting I-69 through Bloomington. Andy Ruff is elected to an at-large seat.

December

The Bloomington City Council passes a declaration against routing I-69 through Bloomington by a 5-3-1 vote. Only three of roughly 50 public speakers supported the highway. The Bloomington Economic Development Corp., the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce and building trades union leaders boycott the meeting. Mayor Fernandez does not sign it.

Citing the potential destruction of farmland, the Indiana Farm Bureau votes to not endorse the construction of I-69 on new terrain. The organization says it prefers using existing roadways.


2000

February

A study released by two Evansville engineers and an appraiser says new-terrain I-69 would be cheaper and shorter than U.S. 41/I-70. Opponents call them “highway lobbyists with visions of multimillion-dollar contracts in their heads.”

WTHR-TV in Indianapolis reports that Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates and its principals contributed $18,000 to Gov. Frank O’Bannon after receiving a $7.7 million contract for I-69 work.

A scientific poll conducted in Evansville by U.S. 41/I-70 proponents finds that of 2,000 responders, 35 percent favored U.S. 41/I-70 and 31 percent favored the new-terrain route. Also, 70 percent of respondents say “politicians” (41 percent) or "business interests seeking to make money" (29 percent) are pushing for I-69.

March

The first round of meetings for INDOT's new I-69 DEIS are held in Terre Haute, where local officials argue for the U.S. 41/I-70 route.

April

About 250 citizens attend two INDOT hearings in Bloomington and oppose the new-terrain route by a 4-1 margin.

October

Highway opponents drop out of an INDOT team formed to work out details on the I-69 project, calling it a biased public relations ploy rather than an avenue for public participation.

An economist from the Hudson Institute in Indianapolis tells the Common Sense I-69 Conference in the capital city that new-terrain I-69 would not produce an acceptable return on investment. His speech is followed by a statement from Hudson’s vice president disagreeing with his conclusions.

More than 100 citizens turn out in Owen County for a CARR-sponsored meeting on I-69.

November

Gov. Frank O’Bannon is re-elected.

December

INDOT says it will evaluate 14 new-terrain "route concepts,” including U.S. 41/I-70 in a new study of I-69 alternatives.


2001

March

Eighth District U.S. Rep. John Hostettler says INDOT officials told him they had $70 million in hand for I-69 planning and did not need any more federal money.

About 70 citizens attend an informational meeting in Martinsville, which is located between Bloomington and Indianapolis. Press reports say many do not want the highway.

April

INDOT releases a draft Purpose and Need Statement for the DEIS that says connecting communities, supporting economic growth and completing an international trade corridor linking Canada and Mexico are reasons for the highway. Opponents say it reveals INDOT's bias in favor of building a new-terrain highway.

May

Citizens against the new terrain I-69 speak out at public meetings on the Purpose and Need statements for the new DEIS. In Martinsville, anti-new-terrain speakers outnumber new-terrain boosters 36-3.

July

The Indianapolis Star editorial board urges INDOT to keep U.S. 41/I-70 as an alternative.

Owen County CARR raffles local farm products at the Owen County Fair to stress the impacts of a new terrain highway on local farms.

August

New INDOT Commissioner J. Bryan Nicol, from Evansville, says I-69 is his top priority.

September

CARR, HEC and ELPC release a report called “The Untold Story” explaining the serious deficiencies in the Purpose and Need Statement, calling it biased, flawed and designed to justify the new-terrain route.

October

INDOT reduces 14 "route concepts" to five alternatives, including new-terrain and U.S. 41/I-70.

The Hoosier Environmental Council and Friends of the Earth run a television ad in Evansville supporting the U.S. 41/I-70 alternative.

November

CARR meets with EPA to discuss problems with INDOT's Purpose and Need Statement.


2002

January

State Rep. Brian Hasler, D-Evansville, introduces legislation that would accelerate the process of eminent domain for highway projects. The bill dies after House Majority Leader Mark Kruzan announces his opposition. The bill doesn’t receive a committee hearing.

February

CARR members, Hoosier Environmental Council canvassers and an Arnold the Pig character pass out pencils to state employees that say “Let’s erase the new-terrain I-69” as a way to help ease the state’s budget crisis.

March

INDOT and consultants travel the new-terrain route, collecting data to compare the environmental impacts of each of the five designated routes.

Kentucky announces it will use existing roads for its section of I-69. Democratic Gov. Paul Patton says it’s “just a common sense approach.”

A group of Indiana lawmakers form Legislators for a Fiscally Responsible I-69 to lobby for the U.S. 41/I-70 alternative.

April

lNDOT reveals a cost overrun for the DEIS, raising the cost of the study to $9 million.

May

CARR notes in a news release that despite budget crises, INDOT continues to spend $15,000 a month on the Washington D.C. law firm and sends Gov. O’Bannon a letter questioning the practice.

June

Owen County CARR puts up an anti-new terrain highway billboard on State Road 67.

July

INDOT releases a DEIS that identifies five alternative routes and estimates the cost as high as $1.74 billion. U.S. 41/I-70 is not included as an alternative route. The route would consume between 215 and 484 homes, between 17 to 75 businesses, several churches, more than 3,000 acres of farmland and more than 1,000 acres of forest.

The document says will be bulldozed to make room for the new-terrain route.
August

An Environmental Law & Policy Center analysis shows that Bernardin Lochmeuller & Associates and key company employees reported $175,078 in campaign contributions to Indiana politicians between February 1999 and April 2002.

Comments at public hearings on the DEIS in Bloomington, Terre Haute and Evansville run 4-1 against the new-terrain route. The Evansville Courier & Press reported that 18 of the first 20 speakers in Bloomington, selected at random by INDOT, opposed the new-terrain route.

Anti-highway opponents launch political campaigns targeting 2002 Democratic Secretary of State candidate John Fernandez and 2004 presumptive gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan.

October

INDOT Commissioner Nicol tells the Associated Press that the state will make the decision on I-69 based on the data its consultants collect, not on public opinion.

A Bloomington Alternative analysis of documents obtained under Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act shows that the Bayh/O’Bannon administrations awarded 23 contracts worth $28 million to Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates between March 1989 and February 2002.

Highway opponents charge INDOT with illegally withholding public documents used by consultants in preparation of the DEIS. INDOT responds that the records belong to the consultants and are not public.

The Bloomington Herald-Times releases a poll of residents along the route from Evansville to Bloomington that says less than half -- 49 percent -- favor the new-terrain route. The poll did not sample residents along U.S. 41.

Sen. Lugar writes a letter to INDOT opposing the routing of I-69 through his family’s farm on Indianapolis’s southwest side. That route is removed from consideration.

Terre Haute Mayor Judy Anderson and Bloomington City Council President Chris Gaal join others at a news conference in Indianapolis calling on Gov. O’Bannon to route I-69 through Terre Haute.

More than 150 people join a caravan sponsored by the Bloomington-based opposition group CountUS! that drives along the proposed new-terrain route, spreading the word that I-69 is a boondoggle.

November

Democrat and I-69 supporter John Fernandez loses his bid for Secretary of State and fails to carry his home county.

Seven Democratic Bloomington City Councilmen send a letter to Gov. O’Bannon asking him to not select the I-69 alternative that passes through Bloomington.

Comment period for DEIS ends. INDOT never releases the results.

EPA Region 5 Administrator Thomas Skinner sends a letter to the FHWA saying the five INDOT routes would damage the environment and suggests a hybrid route that would combine parts of the U.S. 41/I-70 and new-terrain routes and still connect in Bloomington.

The U.S. Department of Interior sends a letter expressing the same concerns as EPA Region 5.

December

At a presentation in Bloomington, former HEC Executive Director Jeff Stant issues a political call to arms against Democratic supporters of I-69, with an emphasis on the 2004 gubernatorial election.

Gov. Frank O’Bannon announces he will delay his announcement of an I-69 route until 2003.


2003

January

Bloomington's State Rep. and mayoral hopeful Mark Kruzan denounces the new-terrain I-69 highway in a guest column in The Bloomington Alternative, saying, "More pavement is not synonymous with progress, especially when it's through farmland and forest."

Gov. Frank O’Bannon announces the new-terrain route as his choice for I-69. In a telephone call to Terre Haute Mayor Anderson, he tells her Terre Haute has its interstate and Bloomington is going to get this one. Opponents vow to continue the fight.

Bloomington Democrats call an impromptu rally in City Hall that draws 75 opponents decrying O’Bannon’s selection and arguing it will destroy Bloomington’s quality of life.

Former Bloomington mayor and congressman Frank McCloskey expresses interest in being appointed to the City Council and announces opposition to I-69 passing through Bloomington.

February

INDOT says it is ready to start buying land for I-69 as soon as the FHWA approves a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) and will divide the work into six sections.

April

CARR releases the results of an evaluation of public comments submitted to INDOT on the DEIS that show 94 percent of the 21,873 opposed the new-terrain route or supported U.S. 41/I-70.

May

Direct action protesters unfurl anti-69 banners at IU graduation and from building tops in downtown Bloomington.

The Evansville Courier & Press editorial board notes that Democratic gubernatorial candidates Joe Andrew, the former state party chair, and State Sen. Vi Simpson from Bloomington prefer alternative routes to the one chosen by O’Bannon.

August

National Public Radio’s Morning Edition features a debate over I-69.

September

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels says he isn’t persuaded that O’Bannon’s choice was the best and that it is not a done deal. "If we take the most expensive version of I-69, we may not have money for anything else," he said.

Gov. O’Bannon dies from a stroke. Lt. Gov. Kernan becomes governor.

Republican David McIntosh drops out of the gubernatorial race, leaving Mitch Daniels as the party’s nominee.

October

The Citizens Advisory Committee of the Bloomington Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) recommends against including I-69 in the city’s long-range transportation plan.

State Sen. Lawrence Borst, Republican chair of the Senate Finance Committee, publishes a letter in the Indianapolis Southside Times that says I-69 can only be funded by delaying $3 billion worth of major highway expansion projects around Indiana for the next 14 years, or by raising the state gasoline tax by 5 cents a gallon and putting all the new money into I-69.

November

Gov. Kernan announces his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. Joe Andrew and Vi Simpson drop out.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels declares his mission is to start construction on I-69 “as soon as possible.” He suggests “toll financing using modern technology” as a possible funding mechanism.

December

INDOT releases the Tier 1 Final EIS (FEIS) and selects the new-terrain route as the preferred alternative.


2004

January

CARR, HEC and the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (MCANA) ask for an extension of the public comment period so they could fully evaluate the 3,000-page FEIS. INDOT denies the request.

February

CARR, HEC and ELPC charge that political pressures led the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to withdraw a 2002 letter that said new-terrain I-69 was ecologically unacceptable.

Highway opponents release a study by Smart Mobility, a Norwich, Vt., transportation consulting firm, that concluded the highway would produce only 66 cents in benefits for every $1 spent. That contrasts with INDOT's estimate of $1.70.

The Federal Highway Administration approves a study that endorses routing the planned I-69 extension along Evansville's east side to Henderson, Ky., via a new Ohio River bridge. A joint Indiana-Kentucky EIS said the 30-mile stretch and the bridge will cost $652 million.

HEC and CARR accuse INDOT and Bernardin-Lochmueller & Associates of excluding known data on karst features along the 3C Route from the FEIS.

March

FHWA approves new-terrain I-69 FEIS and issues a favorable Record of Decision on the project. INDOT Commissioner Nicol declares the debate over.

April

Hoosier Environmental Council exposes $150,000 in state and local grants given by the State of Indiana to the I-69 Mid-Continent Highway Coalition, arguing the process was rigged.

May

Anti-highway citizens demonstrate at a Joe Kernan fundraiser in Indianapolis. Protesters call for Kernan’s defeat and vow to “bird-dog him” throughout the campaign.

Lafayette resident, Greene County organic farmer and new-terrain foe Steve Bonney announces an independent run for governor.

July

Youthful protesters stage a vigil outside a newly opened I-69 planning office in downtown Bloomington.

August

Led by Jeff Stant, protesters confront Kernan at events in Indianapolis and Richmond and have a raucous confrontation with pro-highway forces during the Democrats’ annual retreat in basketball hero Larry Bird’s hometown of French Lick.

September

Protesters confront Kernan at campaign appearances in Greenfield and Indianapolis.

Libertarian candidate for governor Ken Gividen makes opposition to I-69 a centerpiece of his campaign at appearances in Indianapolis, Bloomington and Terre Haute.

The Bloomington City Council adopts a resolution opposing I-69 passing through the city on a 7-1 vote, with all seven Democrats in support. Mayor Mark Kruzan signs it.

October

More than 500 citizens of all ages and from all walks of life gather for a massive “I-69 Is Not a Done Deal” rally on the Statehouse steps. Democrats, Republicans and Libertarian Gividen speak to the crowd, which marches to the governor’s office and delivers an anti-new-terrain-highway statement.

November

Daniels defeats Kernan in the governor’s race.

Anti-I-69 activists fill the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in downtown Bloomington for the release of a fund-raising CD titled Save It -- Don't Pave It, on which more than 20 performers donated their time, music and lyrics.


2005

January

Gov. Daniels appoints Thomas Sharp, a retired Alcoa executive from Evansville, as INDOT commissioner.

State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, calls the idea of a major highway bringing economic prosperity to a region “outmoded thinking” in a Q&A published in The Bloomington Alternative.

February

Gov. Daniels, INDOT and Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates launch a new “Public Meeting Process” designed to shut opponents out of public hearings by restricting where information tables can be placed.

The Indianapolis City-County Council votes 27-2 to support a resolution opposing the planned I-69 route extension through southern Marion County. The resolution, which does not require Mayor Bart Peterson's signature, is forwarded to state officials.

March

WISH-TV in Indianapolis broadcasts an 18-part investigative series titled “Highway Robbery” that exposes rampant graft and corruption in Frank O’Bannon’s INDOT, with an emphasis on campaign contributions and contracts awarded to highway engineering companies. The CEO of one such firm told the station that he contributed "because they ask us to."

May

Citing its new meeting protocol, INDOT and Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates forbid CARR President Thomas Tokarski, CARR members and other citizens from passing out information at public meeting in Oakland City.

A group called Roadless Summer organizes and plans a series of direct-action protests and briefly occupies an I-69 planning office in Bloomington, demanding that INDOT close the office and cancel the highway.

INDOT announces it has a $2 billion deficit. CARR and HEC call on INDOT to eliminate its entire budget deficit by "scuttling" I-69.

June

Roadless Summer activists execute “office invasions” at I-69 planning offices during which they pound drums, blow whistles and shout opposition to the new-terrain route. Two dozen are arrested in Indianapolis after someone at a rally spray paints anti-highway graffiti on the Statehouse. Several are pepper sprayed, one is Tasered, and three are charged.

CARR plans to challenge INDOT’s Public Meeting Process at a meeting in Bloomington. Gov. Daniels rescinds the policy three hours before the meeting. Hundreds show up at the meeting to oppose the new-terrain route.

The Daniels administration shelves construction schedules for I-69, saying not enough money is available to build it within a decade. CARR, HEC, CountUS! and MCANA say the governor is underestimating the fiscal problems facing INDOT.

INDOT releases documents from the O’Bannon era that say the new-terrain highway construction wouldn’t begin until 2017, while officials were publicly saying the highway would be finished by then.

July

An INDOT planning office in Bloomington is vandalized. Windows are broken, black tar is sprayed on the building and signs are painted red.

August

INDOT officials admit at a meeting in Seymour that the state does not have the money to build I-69 and is looking for alternative financing.

Gov. Daniels says he expects I-69 from Evansville to Indianapolis to be completed by 2017 and that part of its construction and operation would be financed by tolls.

September

Gov. Daniels announces his Major Moves highway plan, through which lease proceeds from a privatized Northern Indiana Toll Road will help pay for I-69 and other road projects. He says I-69 will be a “toll road or no road.”

October

MCANA, HEC and CARR hold a news conference in Indianapolis and denounce Major Moves and the toll road as "wildcat schemes to fund I-69." They cite dictionary definitions of "wildcat" as "risky or unsound ... outside business procedural and ethical norms ... fraudulent or highly speculative."

More than 600 Morgan County residents pack the Martinsville High School auditorium, object to Daniels’s toll-road plan and tell INDOT they do not want I-69 passing through their town.

November

Citizen groups release a report titled “Caution -- Slippery Road Ahead!: Toll roads and privatization, what could go wrong?” in which they call Gov. Daniels’s toll plan "a radical departure" from traditional highway funding methods and call for "meaningful legislative and citizen oversight."

Only three out of 60 citizens who attend an INDOT public meeting in Greene County speak in support of I-69. The vast majority oppose it.


2006

January

Gov. Daniels announces that the Spanish-Australian consortium Cintra-Macquarie has bid $3.8 billion for a 75-year Major Moves lease on the Indiana Toll Road. Indiana would receive the money up front and not receive any more revenue over the life of the lease.

March

A Major Moves rally at the Statehouse turns into a shouting match between supporters and opponents from a variety of organizations opposed to the governor’s plan, including the United Auto Workers.

Citizens led by Steve Bonney file a legal challenge to Major Moves.

The Martinsville City Council unanimously votes to rescind a previously established resolution in favor of I-69.

The Indianapolis Star reports that engineering, construction and other interests that stand to gain from Major Moves contributed more than $300,000 to a nonprofit group that promotes the plan and other parts of Gov. Daniels' agenda.

The General Assembly passes Major Moves, after last-minute deals say I-69 can’t be a toll road in Martinsville and cannot pass through Perry Township in Southwest Marion County.

The Martinsville City Council narrowly defeats a resolution that says the council opposes I-69 passing through or near Martinsville and opposes its construction.

April

INDOT signs the Major Moves contract with Cintra-Macquarie.

May

A St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge rules that citizens challenging Major Moves’ constitutionality must post a $1.9 billion bond.

June

The Indiana Supreme Court upholds the lower court ruling that citizens must post a bond for their challenge to Major Moves to proceed. The case dies as a result.

INDOT releases the Tier 1 Re-evaluation, finding that its preferred new terrain I-69 route should be a toll road.

INDOT officials admit at a meeting in Bloomington that an I-69 toll road would carry less traffic, divert more traffic to other state and local roads, and produce less economic development and fewer jobs than a non-toll road.

July

Democratic State Reps. Matt Pierce and Peggy Welch and State Sen. Simpson, all representing Bloomington, ask FHWA to reject plans to turn the proposed I-69 extension between Indianapolis and Evansville into a toll road.

A report titled "Tolling Deals Fatal Blow to I-69," based on an ELPC analysis of INDOT’s Tier 1 Re-evaluation, says a toll road could cause worse traffic problems in some communities, more crashes, more fatalities, more truck travel time and decreases in employment and annual disposable income.

October

HEC, CARR and the Environmental Law & Policy Center file a lawsuit in federal court to overturn Tier 1 Record of Decision for I-69, alleging that the state rigged the route-selection process.

November

Gov. Daniels drops his toll road plan for I-69 and proposes a privatized “Indiana Commerce Connector” toll road around I-465 on the south and east sides of Indianapolis to help pay for it.


2007

March

More than 200 citizens attend an Indiana House of Representatives field hearing in Martinsville on the proposed Indiana Commerce Connector. When asked if they supported or opposed the project, opponents outnumber supporters by a 2-to-1 margin.

Gov. Daniels withdraws from legislative consideration the Indiana Commerce Connector and another highway privatization plan in Northern Indiana, saying public opposition persuaded him the proposals were premature.

CARR, HEC and ELPC say new INDOT data suggest the cost of extending I-69 will be almost $4 billion.

July

INDOT initiates eviction proceedings against a half dozen families whose homes sit in the I-69 path.

Calling themselves the Hayduke Moving Company, in reference to George Hayduke from Edward Abbey's Monkey Wrench Gang, Roadblock Earth First! activists "evict" INDOT from I-69 planning offices in Oakland City and Petersburg by carrying furniture and files outside and dumping them in the parking lots. They occupy and briefly shut down an I-69 planning office in Bloomington and hang anti-new-terrain banners around Bloomington.

August

An Associated Press analysis of Federal Highway Administration data suggests 11 percent of Indiana bridges are “structurally deficient.”

About 15 banner-carrying activists take over an INDOT "Community Planning Program" in Bloomington, forcing the meeting’s cancellation.

September

The U.S. Department of Transportation selects I-69 from Texas to Michigan as one of six interstate routes that will be the first to participate in a new federal initiative called “Corridors of the Future” to develop multi-state corridors to help reduce congestion.

October

INDOT releases the Tier 2 Section 1 FEIS.

December

U.S. District Court Judge David Hamilton rules against the CARR, HEC, ELPC lawsuit over the FEIS process, saying INDOT has thus far complied with the Endangered Species, Clean Water and Department of Transportation Acts.

FHWA issues the Tier 2 Section 1 FEIS Record of Decision, approving Section 1.


2008

March

INDOT demolishes the first two homes in Gibson County in anticipation of starting construction on the first 1.77 miles of I-69 from I-164 north of Evansville to State Road 68 near Oakland City.

April

INDOT awards bids for the first section of I-69. The Associated Press reports that Gohmann Asphalt and Construction Inc., which was awarded a $25.23 million contract to build the 1.77-mile stretch, agreed in December 2007 to pay $8.2 million to settle fraud claims that it switched road core samples to hide inadequate work on another project.

Despite being denied a permit, Roadblock Earth First! protesters march through downtown Bloomington, accompanied by Bloomington police, and vow to continue resisting the highway.

May

Roadblock Earth First! protesters erect a tree-sit on the I-69 construction site in Gibson County.

June

Masked protesters vandalize a Bloomington I-69 planning office, breaking windows and spray-painting graffiti.

A flash flood submerges the entire section of State Road 37 through Martinsville under several feet of water. Highway opponents say the natural disaster proves the route is in a floodplain and will require INDOT to upgrade the road design, adding more cost to the project. INDOT announces it will buy some flood-ravaged homes in the I-69 right-of-way.

Law enforcement evicts two tree-sitters from the protest site in the Gibson County construction zone. In addition to the tree sitters, at least four more activists are arrested for acts of civil disobedience. About 50 torch carrying protestors march through downtown Bloomington.

July

A dozen Roadblock Earth First! protesters are arrested at the Gohmann Asphalt & Construction Co. after chaining themselves to a truck, blocking the entrance and shutting down the business for several hours.

Gov. Daniels and highway supporters have a “ceremonial groundbreaking” after hauling a load of dirt from the site to a convention hall. The public is excluded, and police block off several city blocks for security.

Construction of the first 1.77 miles begins.

September

An INDOT spokesman says construction in Martinsville probably won’t begin until 2015.

November

Daniels is re-elected governor.

December

An INDOT spokeswoman says a shortfall in Major Moves funds will not delay I-69 construction.


2009

January

INDOT releases Tier 2 DEISs for sections 2 and 3.

February

INDOT says it wants to delay construction of two ramp systems on the I-69 extension so it can speed up construction of the highway from the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center south to Evansville.

March

INDOT holds public hearings on Tier 2 DEISs, Sections 2 and Section 3 in Petersburg and Daviess County. Comments are overwhelmingly against construction of I-69.

INDOT and FHWA request that the Bloomington MPO amend its Transportation Improvement Plan to include a “hardship purchase” of a house on State Road 37 in the I-69 right-of-way. The MPO rejects the request.

CARR releases a report that says construction costs for the southernmost sections of the I-69 will be double what INDOT has estimated, to well over $4 billion.

April

Members of a new group called Bloomington Against I-69 lay a 40-foot long fabric “road” out on the grass on the IU campus to protest the highway extension.

Indiana State Police and the FBI arrest two Roadblock Earth First! activists for INDOT office “evictions” and other actions in 2007 and 2008. They are charged with violations of the Indiana Corrupt Business Influence Act, the state’s version of the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, a.k.a. RICO, which is used to combat organized crime.

INDOT releases a revised DEIS for Section 2. Many riparian and stream impacts had been missed in original DEIS.

May

INDOT says the cost of I-69 has risen to $3.1 billion. Gov. Daniels suggests bypassing some federal highway standards to lessen the cost.

June

Comment period ends for Sections 2 and 3.

INDOT and Federal Highway Administration bring back the request for a hardship buyout of a house in the I-69 right-of-way south of Bloomington. The MPO postpones the request in order to have time to study a letter sent by FHWA concerning the buyout.