Hoosier Environmental Council
INDIANAPOLIS - The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) today released "The Alarming Rise of Indiana Transportation Funding Dedicated to I-69," a policy paper detailing the fiscal shortfalls of the controversial construction project. HEC has been a 20-year critic of the I-69 project due to the damaging environmental impacts; however, this paper shines a light on the disproportionate percentage of available funding dedicated to its construction and what that means for other road and bridge funding needs throughout Indiana.
The new terrain I-69 highway will eat up one-fifth of available highway construction and maintenance funding from 2012 to 2014. In 2013 alone, the highway will consume nearly 30 percent of Indiana’s highway funds. The disproportionate percentage means many projects throughout the rest of Indiana will be stuck in “shovel ready” mode or never even leave the drawing board.
Thirteen Indiana citizens and two citizen groups have threated to sue state and federal officials over the proposed Interstate 69 extension unless they cease violating federal laws, including the Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.
Bloomington attorneys Rudy Savich and Mick Harrison filed a Notice of Intent to Sue on July 5 against Gov. Mitch Daniels, Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael B. Cline, Federal Highway Division Administrator Robert F. Tally and four other federal officials.
Like citizens in Indiana, Hal Suter has been fighting I-69 for more than two decades. He is the chair of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club, which covers all of Texas but El Paso, and says widespread opposition has Texas highway advocates “scheming undercover.”
Furthermore, as in Indiana, I-69 in Texas is being constructed incrementally, according to a county official who so stated in an op-ed in the local paper a few days ago. The official provided no timeline for completion of the sections.
I waited until now to publicly thank Mayor Mark Kruzan for his May 13 vote against Interstate 69 because a private note I sent him came back saying he would be out of e-mail range until month's end. I know the mayor read my piece calling him out on the issue last November. We communicated about it. So, in the interest of journalistic proportionality, equal play for his courage is required.
Besides, the fallout from the mayor's stand against the corruption, abuse of power and anti-democratic forces behind the sociopathic, $4 billion taxpayer mugging is falling hardest around him and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) now. For example, with a lack of self-awareness worthy of The Office's Michael Scott, newspaper editors in Evansville called local MPO members "clowns" in a May 22 editorial. (More on that below.)
Opponents of Interstate 69 erupted in cheers and applause when Mayor Mark Kruzan and the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee (MPO) on May 13 voted to exclude I-69 in its Transportation Improvement Program for fiscal years 2012–15.
The 8-to-3 vote followed several hours of intense testimony from the public in opposition to I-69. The move includes section 4, which would bisect Monroe County.
“There comes a time when you stand up to a bully,” City Council member Andy Ruff said. “It is time to stand up for ourselves. It is time to stop the bully from adding I-69 to his political trophy case.”
You've heard it before: "I-69 is not a done deal." A panel of five activists presented ample evidence bolstering that statement at Green Drinks at the Upland Brewery banquet hall on April 27.
Chris Doran, from the I-69 Accountability Project, moderated. The panel was made up of Jody Madeira, whom Doran introduced as a "pissed-off" homeowner and IU law professor; Christine Glaser, an environmental economist; Tim Maloney, from the Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC); Tom Tokarski, from Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR); and Sam Allison, Monroe County council member.
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.
Jean Smith holds one end of a 7-feet-long poster that first entered the protesting scene five years ago. It should be a third longer, she said.
“It’s the cost of I-69 expressed in millions,” the longtime opponent of the Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis via Bloomington said, looking down at the small numbers. “When I printed this, the state said it cost $1.8 billion, but we estimated that it cost $3 billion. The state now admits that it’s $3 billion."
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) has calculated the cost to be $4 billion, so the poster should be longer.
The “green scare” is in full swing, with COINTELPRO-style targeting of environmental and animal rights activists. The green scare, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, is “the repression of environmental activists by designating them as terrorists.”
The challenge for activists is to peacefully protest and avoid criminalization of their dissent. Nowhere is that situation more evident than in the case of two I-69 protestors, Hugh Farrell and Gina “Tiga” Wertz. After a nonviolent protest Wertz was charged with intimidation, a class A misdemeanor, two counts; conversion (unauthorized use of someone else's property), a class A misdemeanor, two counts; and corrupt business influence (racketeering), a class C felony. Her bond was set at $10,000.
I remember my first ride on a new four-lane highway through the Kentucky countryside, and what a fine road it was: smooth, wide and uncrowded. We just floated along in our Chevrolet -- Mother, Daddy, my little brother and me, back home from Nigeria where roads were usually unpaved laterite, and we bounced through clouds of dust, moving over now and then to let herds of long-horned cows pass. It was 1956, and America was zooming full-bore into what looked like a bright future of suburban homes with two-car garages.
I think of that now as state surveyors move into Monroe County to chart the route of an interstate highway -- maybe the last interstate highway that will be built in the United States, if it is built at all, a question I hope still hangs in the air. As our town tries to dig its way out of the mess that 20th-century America has made of itself, we can hardly imagine that what we need now at the dawn of the post-oil age is a highway.