Fiber the future, not Interstate 69

Vincennes Sun-Commercial

There was a big celebration recently marking the opening of another leg of Interstate 69, this one extending the four-lane highway from Scotland in Greene County on north to State Road 37 at Bloomington.

We’ve never been a fan of I-69. In fact, we think it may well prove to be the biggest boondoggle of the century for the state of Indiana, just the type of pork barrel spending that Gov. Mike Pence would rail against — if it had been proposed for another state.

In Indiana, the plea was how much it was needed for future economic development, and there was Gov. Mike Pence leading the motorcade, giving the new four-lane a thumbs-up from behind the wheel.

So much for being a safe driver.

Economically, I-69 has never made sense; the math just doesn’t add up.

The only way construction of the road would have made sense was for it to have opened as a toll road, earning its own upkeep.

The politics of it being toll road were impossible; better to starve other road and bridge projects than have it be a toll road.

We did a little back-of-the-envelope ciphering the other day (while traveling on a two-lane state highway which, like so many in Indiana, was in dire need of attention) and, conservatively, the time motorists traveling on I-69 from Evansville to Bloomington will save comes at a cost of around $300 million per minute — and the cost may actually be closer to $400 million, perhaps higher still.

How much better off would southwestern Indiana be today if, over the past few years, hundreds of millions of dollars had instead been spent on improving existing state highways and bridges, including U.S. 41?

Instead of chip-and-seal, our highways could have been properly resurfaced.

Supporters have long claimed that the future of the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center depended on I-69 being built — a claim that isn’t relevant, as Crane will exist as long as there is war somewhere in the world in which the United States is involved.

We don’t see that changing anytime soon.

I-69 is a throwback to the Eisenhower era, and while there may well be those in the state who long for a return to those days, the way forward for Indiana isn’t down a four-lane road.

There was, in fact, a more-meaningful announcement pertaining to southwestern Indiana’s future, an announcement that was made without the fanfare we saw with I-69, conducted recently in Knox County, down at the U.S. 41 Industrial Park.

While the governor was missing, representatives of AT&T Indiana were on hand to announce that the park was now “fiber ready” with access to high-speed Internet readily available to existing and any new businesses locating at the park.

The U.S. 41 Industrial Park is alone in Indiana in being both a gold-rated, shovel-ready facility and to have the fiber-ready designation.

The future belongs to fiber.

You can see the past in your rearview mirror as you travel Interstate 69.

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