Thursday, anyone who lives near SR 37 in Perry Township saw the value of their home plummet in a matter of minutes, as they listened to the death knell for their quality of life. At 1:30 that afternoon, Governor O'Bannon announced the selection of route 3C for the extension of I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville - a choice that will cost nearly $2 billion.
If the announced route is allowed to go forward, some homeowners will be the victims of eminent domain. Others will suddenly find themselves trying to live next to a superhighway. And the rest of us will have I-69 driving through our wallets by paying 15 cents per gallon more for gasoline to pay for this boondoggle highway.
Last year INDOT lobbied the Legislature for a 15-cent-per-gallon tax hike, but only got 3 cents. Ironically, Thursday was also the opening day of the Legislature, whose primary focus will be crafting a budget in the face of a $850 million deficit that cannot repair and sustain the roads we already have.
Sadly, Mayor Peterson and our City-County Council did not stand up for the citizens of Marion County and take a position to oppose the routes that will divide and devastate the very neighborhoods they are supposed to represent. Our elected officials should have demonstrated the same political strength and leadership on behalf of their constituency, as did their counterparts in Bloomington, Terre Haute and other communities. However, they still have an opportunity to express outrage at this decision to the Governor, INDOT and the EPA.
The announced route, which follows SR 37 through Perry Township in Marion County, will take more homes, create more ecological damage, disrupt more lives and cost roughly $1 billion dollars more than upgrading I-70 and US 41 - the 'common sense' route. While the proponents of New Terrain route 3C claim economic benefits will accrue, no evidence to support that assertion has been provided. All that really appears to be likely are truck stops, gas stations and fast food stores.
Building new freeways to bring prosperity is an outdated approach in the era of the electronic superhighway. The extra $1 billion could be better spent attracting the high tech industries Indiana so desperately needs for the future or repairing existing roadways and reconstituting existing travel corridors. Indiana's highway construction will suffer far into the future because of diverted funding to build this highway extension to Evansville.
If we look solely at the neighborhoods of Indianapolis, the economic impact of homes taken by eminent domain, devalued neighborhoods, and destruction of the sense of community were not included in INDOT's analysis. If the route announced today is not blocked, Perry Township stands to be hit hard by these realities with absolutely no gain to compensate.
The new freeway-freeway interchange proposed for Perry Township will require the elimination of some or all or the Sunshine Gardens neighborhood, and wall off the remainder. The drinking water supply for a sizable portion of our region will be unnecessarily exposed to hazardous cargo contamination. Southside Indianapolis traffic patterns will change dramatically and exacerbate existing local bottlenecks. The Perry Township community will be split forever. And we stand to lose some of the businesses that already exist on the fringes of Marion County when new "development incentives" are dangled by competing counties.
One of McANA's core beliefs is that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people is best accomplished when our government solicits public input, carefully listens to and considers what has been said, and develops policies and programs that reflect that input. Implementation of the public process established by INDOT was seriously flawed.
All citizens who live in the path of any proposed route should have been directly notified and in time to voice their opinion; they were not. At the 11th hour, the alternate sub-route along the Mann Road corridor suddenly appeared in four of the five "preferred routes." Inconceivably, INDOT went even further away from honest citizen participation with their consideration of a previously undisclosed 'hybrid' route after all public comment had been closed off. This should never have been allowed to occur, much less been promoted by J. Bryan Nicol, Commissioner of INDOT.
Furthermore, INDOT ignored the avalanche of testimony, signatures, and letters in opposition to New Terrain routes garnered during the public process and suggested, again without evidence, that these opinions are in the minority.
Indiana can do better in these financially troubled times than waste an extra billion dollars. The Governor could have left office with a legacy of prudent, well-founded, logical leadership in addressing this highway issue by selecting the no-build option or the least expensive, least destructive I-70 to US 41 route. Instead he has chosen a highly unpopular, ineffective and expensive means of allegedly bringing economic development to south central Indiana.
McANA believes that 'common sense' should prevail and the route announced Thursday should be retracted.
Cathy Burton (President) / / 317-862-1316
Pat Andrews (Vice-President) / / 317-856-3341