Legal questions surrounding the Bloomington Monroe County's MPO's inclusion of I-69 in Monroe County's road plans delayed an April 8 vote on the subject. Mayor Mark Kruzan led the pack of MPO members who previously changed their votes to "Yes" following what opponents called the state's "unprincipled tactics of coercion and intimidation."
I-69 Accountability Project
On Friday, April 8, 2011, the Bloomington Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) postponed its decision on the proposed inclusion of I-69 in the MPO’s 2012-2015 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). This came as the result of a 23-page letter outlining legal concerns submitted to MPO members by attorneys representing members of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR), the I-69 Accountability Project, and local landowners.
The MPO delayed voting on the proposed inclusion of I-69 projects in the 2012-2015 TIP until its next meeting May 13.
The letter outlined that certain actions which are currently being pursued by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) regarding I-69 in Monroe County are in apparent violation of federal law, and may be in violation of Indiana state law as well. On Nov. 5 of last year, after direct threats from INDOT to withdraw state funding for local roads and other services, Mayor Mark Kruzan and the MPO had voted to include I-69 in the previous 2010-2013 TIP.
“We strongly urge Mayor Kruzan and the MPO to stand up to INDOT's unprincipled tactics of coercion and intimidation, and do what the local community has overwhelmingly asked them to do: Say no to I-69 in Monroe County” said I-69 Accountability Project spokesperson Chris Doran. “There are also now clear and very serious legal concerns regarding the MPO approval of I-69 in its Transportation Improvement Plan.”
One of the concerns raised in the letter is the MPO's use of federal and state funds for design, engineering, property/right-of-way acquisition, and construction prior to completion of a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and Record of Decision (ROD) for Section 4, which goes through Monroe County.
"We strongly urge Mayor Kruzan and the MPO to stand up to INDOT's unprincipled tactics of coercion and intimidation, and do what the local community has overwhelmingly asked them to do: Say no to I-69 in Monroe County." - Chris Doran, I-69 Accountability Project
Further, the letter asserts that funding for completion of the work on I-69 has not been secured. Both federal and state gas tax revenues that have traditionally been used to fund highway and road projects have been declining. The prospect of Congress making up for lost gas tax revenue by increasing appropriations are slim. What this means for Indiana is that there is increasing competition for declining federal and state transportation funds. Given the backlog of road maintenance and bridge repair projects in Indiana, this state and the local MPO cannot afford to waste any money on even a small portion on an I-69 project that may never be finished.
There are also environmental issues related to endangered species, karst, air pollution, and water impacts that still could stop new terrain I-69. For example, white nose syndrome is posing a new threat to the Indiana bat’s survival, and it is possible that INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will have to reconsider alternative routes that do not threaten the survival of this federally endangered species. What this means for Indiana and the local MPO is that any funds now allocated to and spent for the current route may be wasted, something that Indiana and the local MPO can ill afford.
"Governor Daniels has instructed INDOT to throw out the rule book when it comes to building I-69. INDOT is apparently doing just that in its abuse of landowner's rights and the cheapening of the design for I-69. " states Thomas Tokarski of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads. "We hope this legal information will encourage INDOT and the Federal Highway Administration to do the right thing. Extortions, as used against the Bloomington/ Monroe County MPO last November and INDOT's shabby and abusive treatment of landowners is unacceptable in a democratic society. No one is above the law."
The full document can be found at the Accountability Project website.
For more information
Chris Doran, I-69 Accountability Project, 812.391.6025
Thomas Tokarski, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, 812.825.9555
Attorney Mick Harrison, co-author of letter, 812.361.6220