BLOOMINGTON, IN (3/12/12) – A panel in Bloomington, Indiana recently voted to remove procedural roadblocks holding up the I-69 Interstate plan through the southwestern portion of the state. As the first step needing approval, the vote means that the state can use available federal dollars to construct a two-mile, $25 million portion of land that was amended back into the group’s plans.
The Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization recently voted to clear the way for the project to move forward in Indiana with plans for I-69 to connect Indianapolis all the way to Bloomington and Evansville by the end of 2014. The plan includes 142 miles of highway extension to connect Indiana State Route 37 in Bloomington to Evansville.
The planning commission meeting began with a semi-veiled threat by Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) Commissioner Michael B. Cline reiterating to those gathered that if the planning group did not approve I-69’s construction the state could block funding for some local projects.
Cline said that standing in I-69’s way would mean “an unfortunate step backward in our cooperative planning efforts and could have other unintended consequences.”
Over the course of the long meeting, many public questions and concerns were raised. While some do not support the interstate project mainly on grounds that the planned highway could potentially encroach on property and bring with it traffic and pollution and other issues affecting a local bat population, City of Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan just wants to the issue resolved, saying simply “I just want to get it over with.”
City of Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke sent a letter to the planning commission’s members in his absence and urged them to approve the highway project. “Whether you agree or disagree that this highway should be built, that debate is now irrelevant,” Winnecke said. “Now is the time to work together to effectively plan for the interstate that is quickly headed your way,” he wrote.
Although the close 7-6 authorization vote is the first in a series of hurdles, the executive director of the Indiana Transportation Association is confident the measure will win public approval. “Some people are going to oppose [the I-69 proposal] forever, but I think there will be a lot less contention,” Kent McDaniel said.
The next two steps for the planning organization are slated for this upcoming September 2012 and next spring 2013 when INDOT will ask the panel to approve preliminary engineering and right-of-way purchasing of land stretching from Bloomington toward Indianapolis and also its construction.
Across the Ohio River in western Kentucky, it seems only a matter of time before I-69 takes form. With overwhelming local support for the plan, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear recently visited the former Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway and Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway and raised new signage designating them as part of the future I-69 corridor.
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