Agency to limit public input on plan

The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) is ready to move ahead with plans to ram Interstate 69 down the throats of the Bloomington community. And it appears that officials there are giving new meaning to the term duplicity.

INDOT is scheduled to release its long-awaited Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed I-69 highway at a series of news conferences across the state on Wednesday. The EIS will narrow the range of possible routes for the highway between Evansville and Indianapolis and evaluate the environmental impacts from each.

One purpose of an EIS, required by federal law, is to show the public that the government has evaluated all possible alternatives on any project with significant impacts on the environment and that the most environmentally friendly option has been selected. Normally in an EIS, a government agency identifies the specific alternative it believes is the most environmentally benign. The EIS process is supposed to give citizens an opportunity to determine whether the government made the correct decision.

But sources say INDOT is taking the unusual step, perhaps unprecedented, of not identifying a preferred alternative.

And in yet another affront to open government and the democratic process, INDOT's chief lawyer has notified highway opponents that the agency will only allow a 60-day public comment on the EIS rather than the customary 120 days. She said a longer comment period would prevent the agency from meeting its schedule for the project.

Priorities are priorities, after all.