Opponents of a new-terrain route for the proposed Interstate 69 issued the first in a series of "Truth Squad" alerts last Thursday. Over the next several weeks the groups will issue similar alerts to the public covering different aspects of the I-69 debate. The groups issuing today's alert include the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC), Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) and the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations (McANA).
"The public deserves the truth," said Andy Knott, air and energy policy director for the HEC. "The new 'I-69 Truth Squad' will reveal the truth behind the many myths, distortions and false statements made by new-terrain I-69 lobbyists."
The first Truth Squad alert covers the claim by INDOT commissioner Bryan Nicol that the debate on I-69 is over. The groups cited the fact that Senator Lawrence Borst, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, has continued to question the availability of funding for the nearly $2 billion project in recent newspaper interviews.
The groups also pointed to an op-ed penned by Borst in October 2003 that said that Indiana would either have to raise the gas tax or postpone other road projects to pay for I-69.
"I don't see how anyone proposing an immensely unpopular highway, that may force a gas tax increase on citizens across Indiana, can say the debate is over," said Pat Andrews, vice president of McANA in reference to Nicol's statement. "People will not stand for a tax increase or delays in local road projects."
The groups also pointed out that the Federal Highway Administration's approval of the new-terrain route in March only covered the first phase (Tier 1) of the project and that the second phase (Tier 2) could take another 18 to 36 months.
"The new-terrain I-69 is so expensive and destructive that its supporters have had to rely on outrageous claims in their attempt to gain support for this boondoggle," said Tom Tokarski, president of CARR. "They have tried to convey the impression that construction will start soon, when nothing could be further from the truth."
The groups support the I-70/US 41 route for I-69, which would use existing and upgraded highways and cost half as much as the nearly $2 billion new-terrain route. That route would be only 13 minutes longer in travel time and would avoid the destruction of thousands of acres of farm and forest land, while helping — not hurting — the already economically struggling counties along US 41.
For more information, visit ... .
Andy Knott, Hoosier Environmental Council, 317-685-8800
Tom and Sandra Tokarski, Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, 812-825-9555
Pat Andrews, Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations, 317-821-0805
The first Truth Alert appears below:
TRUE: "The fact that the federal government OK'd the project doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean it's going to be built." State Senator Lawrence Borst, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (Indianapolis Star; March 31, 2004).
FALSE: INDOT Commissioner Bryan Nicol claimed "the debate is over" at a March 29, 2004 press conference announcing the federal record of decision on the new-terrain I-69 route (Evansville Courier & Press, March 30, 2004).
There is no identified funding source for I-69. In an op-ed published in October of 2003, Senator Borst said the state would have to raise the gas tax or postpone other highway projects to fund I-69. Borst went on to say that "Taxpayers...will lose state education and health care dollars if the state chooses to concentrate its resources and spend $1.7 billion for I-69..." (Southside Times; October 30, 2003)
NOTE: The actual cost of the new-terrain I-69 between Indianapolis and Evansville is at least 1.9 billion and may be as much as $3 billion when connections to Kentucky and around Indianapolis are included.
The Federal Highway Administration's approval of INDOT's new-terrain route in late March only covered the first phase of environmental studies. INDOT has estimated the second phase could take as much as three years for some segments of the route.