NEWS: I-69 sees higher costs, lesser quality 

The current economic crisis and Indiana's budget problems are giving renewed ammunition to those opposed to the I-69 new terrain highway that is part of Gov. Mitch Daniels' "Major Moves" highway plan.

According to a new report by Citizen's for Appropriate Rural Roads, the Indiana Department of Transportation's (INDOT) latest cost projections for the southernmost 3 sections of the Evansville to Indianapolis new terrain I-69 highway reveal at least a doubling of original costs.

"In light of INDOT's new cost estimates we call upon the state to perform a new benefit-cost analysis before proceeding further with the project," says Pat Andrews, Vice-President of McANA.

"Besides being a huge waste of tax dollars, I-69 is a money sink that would drain funds for needed projects from around Indiana with little or no benefits to the state. Billions of dollars wasted on a project that cannot generate a positive return on investment, while local streets have been neglected for decades due to lack of funds, is simply obscene."

According to the report, INDOT has also proposed several design and materials changes in order to cut costs:

Some of the changes, as listed in the Tier 2, DEIS for Section 3, appendix D, of INDOT's recent Environmental Impact Statements are:

- Construction of some planned interchanges would be deferred until the need arises and funds become available.

- Construction of the interchange at US 231 would be deferred until section 4 is complete.

- Interchange at I-64 will be built to a lesser standard.

- Mainline pavement and shoulders would be asphalt instead of concrete.

- Less costly bridge beam materials would be used.

- Bridges will be shorter.

- Median and shoulders narrowed.

- Rest stop removed.

"The State now realizes it cannot afford even the least expensive segments of I-69," says Thomas Tokarski, President of CARR. "In spite of these attempt to cheapen the project, the total costs will rise dramatically. At the same time, some of the stated goals of the project, such as accessibility, are diminished.

"Dramatically increasing the costs and lowering the design standards without changing the economic models is deceptive and unethical. Deferring construction only puts off the costs which will continue to increase. Calling the cheaper alternative the "low-cost" alternative is simply wrong. This is a clear case of the deceptive practice of bait-and-switch. Building a cheaper I-69 increases the annual maintenance costs. The shortsighted approach of using lesser grade materials in a rush to build I-69 will place an even greater burden on taxpayers in the future."

"In today's changing world the plan to spend billions of dollars on I-69 is completely irresponsible. The plan should be dropped before any more money is spent on it," says Tokarski. There are so many other needed transportation projects where the money would be better spent."

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