Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels said I-69 is on the fast track to be completed by 2012.
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels says the first three sections will be completed three years ahead of schedule.
The governor says all of this could be done within the interstate's $700 million budget. -- Evansville's WFIE, Channel 14. Oct. 23, 2009
Mitch Daniels has a problem. A big problem. His dream of a well-funded patronage machine, in the form of the I-69 extension from Evansville to Crane, is in trouble.
I've written about this before, and it's time to write again. As predicted, the state (as in Indiana) has decided to petulantly go forward with officially punishing Bloomington and Monroe County for being anything but grease on the I-69 skids.
But first, a quick redux. There exists something called a Metropolitan Planning Organization, or MPO. There exists also something called the Indiana Department of Transportation, or INDOT. And there exist local, state and federal governments.
Some time ago, the federal government decided that it wasn't going to give out money to the states, for road projects, unless it could be assured that it would be money well spent. Toward that goal the feds wanted to make sure that the money was needed, that it was wanted, and that it would be spent efficiently and effectively.
Editor’s note: Herald-Times reporter Michael Malik reported last week that the Indiana Department of Transportation has decided to withhold millions of dollars of transportation funding to the City of Bloomington over disputes about the proposed I-69/NAFTA Highway. What follows is Mayor Mark Kruzan’s response.
After accusing the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) of "hijacking" city and county highway funds and holding both governments "hostage," Mayor Mark Kruzan rendered moot the issue of a “hardship buyout” of I-69 property at Tapp Road and State Road 37.
"To address the problem which INDOT feels is a genuine one, the City of Bloomington today intends to make an offer to purchase this property," Kruzan announced as the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) took up the matter on Sept. 11. Where the state wants to put an interchange for I-69, the city will develop an affordable housing project, he said.
After the meeting, INDOT representative Jim Stark said INDOT will be satisfied as long as the property owner is. "I know that I am really happy that this lady is going to get her property purchased," he said. "That was the intent of us asking for the amendment to go through."
At 6:03 a.m. on Aug. 25, activists started gathering at the Caldwell Eco-Center parking lot to travel down to Petersburg for the initial court hearing for I-69 activists Hugh Farrell and Gina "Tiga" Wertz.
The pair were scheduled to appear in Pike County Circuit Court, where each faced charges of one felony charge of corrupt business influence (racketeering), two counts of misdemeanor conversion and two counts of misdemeanor intimidation for protests against new-terrain I-69.
"We're going down to show support for Hugh and Tiga, and also to show the Pike County Court that people are paying attention," Myke Luurtsma said.
In addition to being one of my busiest of the year, this past week has been one that I haven’t been able to get away from I-69 and, in a related matter, just how poorly the Bloomington community is served by its local “news media,” in this case WFIU radio. The connection between the two goes a long way to explain why more than 500 Indiana families and small businesses stand to have their homes, dreams and livelihoods destroyed in the near future by a political system that, free from the constraints of true journalism, thrives on graft and corruption.
It was a week in which I didn’t have time to do any reporting or real writing, in part due to a deadline on a months-long I-69 writing project that I will talk about at a later time. I had hoped to update readers on a watershed confrontation between I-69 supporters and opponents scheduled for 1:30 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 11, in City Hall. But e-mails asking for an update sent to the four members of the Bloomington-Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) produced only one response, from Andy Ruff, who said he didn’t know.
So, I’m left with no alternative but to recap and editorialize this week. I hate it when that happens, but so it goes.
Editor's note: The following Q&A presents unedited answers from Thomas and Sandra Tokarski to questions from The Bloomington Alternative. The Tokarskis are long-time transportation activists and founding members of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads.
ALTERNATIVE: Let's start with where things stand today. As of a couple weeks ago, the state had graded 1.77 miles of roadway from I-164 north of Evansville, built one bridge and laid a couple hundred feet of onramps. Have you heard any reports on ongoing or planned construction?
TOKARSKIS: The state is slowly buying land north of the 1.77-mile segment. We believe they are going slow on land purchases because they want to make deals with willing sellers and not have to condemn property. A contract has been let for construction of a 0.43 mile segment a bit north of the current construction site to build the bridges over Pigeon Creek. Another 1.54-mile segment is scheduled to be let next March. We know of no other construction contracts that have been let. Several parts of the I-69 project are in the state's Long Range Plan but the dates are not reliable. They can and do change frequently.
Editor's note: Hugh Farrell is an I-69 activist who, along with Gina "Tiga" Wertz, has been charged by state officials with felony racketeering for their activism. Authorities executed another search warrant against another activist on July 9. Among the actions he is being investigated for is having allegedly lived with Farrell. Farrell and Wertz's first court appearances, scheduled for July 14 in Pike County, have been continued to Aug. 25.
To all my friends and companions,
In the eight weeks since our arrest, I've felt more overwhelmed by your solidarity than by the State's persecution. This is how it should be, and I often feel unable to express how grateful I am for the many different initiatives and fundraising efforts that so many of you have undertaken since then.
During some moments of isolation, times when repression is so palpable I can barely breathe, the actions of many have kept me strong and grounded: the letters, hugs, the intelligent and kind words that have been said or circulated. Despite the efforts of the authorities, I've remained a part of my communities.
The last time anyone from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) told the truth about the new-terrain Interstate 69/NAFTA Highway from Evansville to Bloomington was 20 years ago this week. On July 19, 1989, an Iowa consultant hired by the agency gathered a room full of Southwest Indiana public officials in Evansville to share the results of a feasibility study. Their conclusion: none of the routes evaluated “have a good enough cost-benefit ratio to justify their construction,” the Bloomington Herald-Times reported the next day.
But before the “Southwest Indiana Highway Feasibility Study” had been bound and formally released seven months later, liars, thieves and bullies hijacked the process. And in the two decades since honest professionals told them that Hoosier taxpayers cannot afford Evansville’s political blackmail, a bipartisan coalition of pork-meisters have flipped tens of millions of taxpayer dollars back and forth, reduced the noble acts of public comment and participation to thumb-twiddling, taken and destroyed four families’ homes, graded 1.77 miles of land and laid a couple hundred feet of concrete.
They have also transformed our political system from a reasonably functioning democracy into an emerging fascist state, whose purpose is to fund and defend their interests. In 1989, public officials respected the public so much that they commissioned unbiased, professional studies of major public works projects and let citizens see the results at the same time they did, in public. In 2009, they are charging 20-something kids as organized criminals for shouting at meetings and picking up office furniture inside a building and dropping it outside in the parking lot.
A moment of truth on the Interstate 69/NAFTA Highway has been put off until Sept. 11, when citizens will have a better idea who will determine their transportation future -- the community or Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Mayor Mark Kruzan asked the Bloomington-Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee (MPO) on Friday to delay a second vote on a request from the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for a "hardship" purchase of property at Tapp Road and State Road 37. The property is in the proposed I-69 right-of-way, and the 13-member MPO had voted 8-2 against the request on March 13.
INDOT asked the MPO to reconsider the request again this month, without giving any reason why, Kruzan said in a June 24 e-mail. "We (the City) asked INDOT to not put this item back on the agenda," he wrote. "But it is their right as an MPO member to make that request and have it be done."