Ever wonder what $3 billion looks like expressed in millions? It’s a 2-feet-by-14-feet-long scroll, containing ones followed by six zeroes printed 3,000 times. That’s the estimated cost of the proposed I-69 expansion route. John Smith, founder of Counties Under New Terrain U.S. I-69 (Count US! I-69), created the scroll hoping that the price tag for the expansion would register.
Kevin Enright’s map of the I-69 route.
Smith and others against the new terrain I-69 route recently presented a display of documents, graphs, maps, photographs and cartoons graphically depicting the impact of the proposed interstate at the Monroe County Library in Bloomington. The group ended its nine-day exhibit with a celebration Feb. 29. “The main purpose is to educate people about where I-69 is going,” said Sandra Tokarski, who founded Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) with her husband Thomas. One of the main problems with the I-69 plan was that none of the landowners had been notified, she said. Former Monroe County Surveyor Kevin Enright put together a 17-feet-long map of the proposed route. The map shows the individual lots, including the names of the owners who would be effected by new terrain I-69. IU student photographer Will Claytor traveled south from Bloomington along the proposed routes documenting what would be lost. His photographs complemented Enright’s map. “People are surprised that it isn’t a straight line,” said Brian Garvey, whose cartoons protesting I-69 hung from the walls. People were also surprised by how many homes it is going through, he said. The majority of the people present at the closing of the exhibit sided against the building of the interstate, but some did not. Karen Fulford, a Monroe County resident, came on the behalf of her parents who had been moved 25 years ago when highway 37 was expanded to four lanes. “I think everyone hates to see a land taken and people’s lives disrupted,” Fulford said, “but it’s a part of progress I suppose.” Smith differs greatly on the issue of progress. Citing a 2002 United States Chamber of Commerce study on what Indiana businesses thought they needed most to improve business, Smith said the No. 1 thing was education. Transportation was a lot farther down on the list, he said. Smith has been opposed to I-69 ever since a route was proposed that would go through his home. Count US! I-69 began on Oct. 27, 2002, when he and others drove along the five proposed routes, notifying citizens. Smith is optimistic about the current climate of the debate. “We’re running on good waves,” he said, “because all the politicians are saying we don’t know where the money is coming from.” Recent gubernatorial candidate Eric Miller has begun to popularize the U.S.-41/I-70 route, saying that it will save at least a billion dollars. Cindy Lemaster traveled from Ft. Wayne to see the show. A graduate of Indiana University Bloomington, she was appalled by the idea of a highway being built through what she thought was some of Indiana’s most beautiful land. She planned to take the message back home. “I don’t feel that the northern part of the state has been adequately informed about this project,” she said. Smith, Garvey and the other contributors hope to take the exhibit to more towns along the route. “I’d love to get it in Washington, Ind.,” Smith said. The local press in Washington and Evansville were not giving the people there much hope for any other options, he said.