Use I-69 construction bypass

The Indianapolis Star

While state officials continue to insist that the extension of Interstate 69 past Bloomington makes economic sense, the latest news reinforces a compelling argument to the contrary.

A draft environmental impact statement estimates that the cost of the Bloomington-to-Martinsville segment could go as high as $545.6 million. That’s $100 million more than the previous high estimate.

The governor’s office replies that the previous four legs of the southern Indiana highway came in well under estimates and there’s no reason to expect this one to be any different.

Even if that’s so, a problem remains: The state doesn’t have money for further work on I-69 after it reaches Bloomington from its

origin in Evansville, projected by 2014.

As new funds are sought, Gov. Mitch Daniels says an indefinite halt at Bloomington might make sense. Others, including elected officials from both parties and many residents and businesspeople in Monroe, Morgan, Johnson and Marion counties, prefer that the stop be definite.

They have a strong case. The current route between Indianapolis and Bloomington, State Road 37, is a highly serviceable four-lane divided highway that could be maintained, repaired and enhanced at a fraction of the cost of turning it into I-69.

That latter cost, for widening to interstate specifications, building interchanges and acquiring property, would be staggering for the 21 mostly rural miles from Bloomington to Martinsville; and far greater for the leg linking it to the densely developed south side of Indianapolis. Add in the loss of taxable real estate, especially along urban stretches, and the upside becomes elusive.

When more highway money becomes available, there will be many uses for it.

Indiana is cross-hatched with multilane divided roads, from state and federal highways to the six interstates; and upkeep and improvements on them as well as on hundreds of miles of other infrastructure make far more fiscal sense than adding to the $1.5 billion already spent on a corridor to Evansville, one that will be all but accomplished once I-69 connects with State Road 37 near Bloomington.

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