Sunday, May 22, 2011

More Hot Air From I-69 Supporters

(photo credit:

I woke up today with the full intention of making a post about the many negative affects that urban sprawl is having on Evansville. However, that post will have to wait another day as I feel that we need to take a deep, deep look at the new editorial produced by the Courier & Press.

Whoever the masked man is behind the C&P editorials is desperate beyond desperate to spread as much I-69 propaganda as humanely possible despite the obvious facts that this road is nothing more than a boondoggle.

Today, they produced another pro-I-69 editorial that just makes you want to shake your head. Let's take a look...

First of all, the fact that this editorial is even being written is due to the great leadership shown by the city of Bloomington in making the correct decision of leaving I-69 out of their budget. My hat's off to the city of Bloomington, the Hoosier Environmental Council, and Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads. There are some battles you shouldn't fight even if you win, but there are some battles you should fight even if you lose. That battle is I-69 and it takes quite a bit of courage for these groups to step up to all the pressure from INDOT, Evansville, Indianapolis, and interstate supporters all across the land. This type of leadership is what you have to have if you are ever going to get your city moving forward. I'm thrilled beyond thrilled that Bloomington rejected I-69.

Let's take a look at some of the editorial's comments...

"OK guys, if you are going to try and prevent the state from running Interstate 69 through the Bloomington area, then you are going to have to give back the state's university — you can't have one and not the other.

We're kidding, of course, but this seems an appropriate response to the latest antics by the clowns who do transportation planning in Bloomington."
I take them at their word that they are kidding about proposing the relocation of IU from Bloomington, but the fact that that even crossed their mind shows you just how off base I-69 supporters are. This is an idea you would find in the comments section under an unknown screen name.

If an interstate is so crucial to the viability of a college/university, than how is Indiana University continuing to grow by leaps and bounds? And if I-69 bypasses Bloomington, how would that be any different than I-69 bypassing downtown Evansville and western Evansville where our fastest growing university (USI) is located?

I really don't think it's wise to call another town's planners clowns when our very own city has stoplights all over the Lloyd Expressway and U.S 41 (which would have been fixed with an upgraded U.S 41). And let's not forget that our very own town had a nice light rail system on Franklin Street, a grand L&N Station, and a vibrant Main Street. While other cities have turned their buildings and light rail systems into crown jewels of their regions, our local "clowns" destroyed every thing we had with little regard for our city. We have a major pal over Evansville and until we lift this pal, it isn't wise to label any other town's planners clowns.

"According to the Associated Press, Bloomington City Council member Andy Ruff, also a member of the planning group, said Monroe County residents have unresolved questions on the road's funding, the location of interchanges and the environment. (Don't forget, Indiana conducted one of the most comprehensive environmental studies ever done anywhere before launching this vital project"
Well let's see, I-69 planners have raised the estimated cost of the interstate from a billion and change to now $3.31 billion (doesn't include Ohio River bridge(s), maintenance, or costs to replace inferior materials), they have finally admitted that they will have to purchase almost 6,000 acres of farmland that will flood, it will destroy a total of 3,741 acres of farmland, and 1,815 acres of forest will be lost. Over 7,000 acres will be paved over by construction ( ). Wouldn't you say that is quite an environmental impact for a road that is expected to only save you 15 minutes or less of drive time?

It gets even worse. Due to the fact that INDOT does not have enough funding to complete the entire I-69, they have had to start making drastic cuts. INDOT has announced that it will pursue various cost-cutting measures – delayed/cancelled overpasses and rest stops, narrowed shoulders and medians, steeper grades, and thinner surface materials. Any city that is wise, should be concerned about I-69's lack of funding, cheap construction designs, and environmental impact.

"There's more: Ruff said, according to The Herald Times, "There comes a time when you stand up to a bully. it is time to stand up for ourselves."

Readers of the Courier & Press should take note: When Ruff talks about "the bully," he is talking about the people of Southwestern Indiana who want and need this highway."
No, Mr. Ruff is talking about those who truly are bullies, and that is those who support I-69. I-69 supporters are desperate to build their boondoggle and will throw anyone under the bus (no pun intended). So far they have...

- Taken $700 million from Major Moves which was acquired through the selling of a toll road in Northern Indiana. In other words, Northern Indiana pays the toll while Southern Indiana reaps the benefits.

- Ignored almost all of the environmental impacts of the interstate.

- Refused to upgrade the death trap that is US 41 from Evansville to Terre Haute, leaving those who commute to Vincennes University and Indiana State University exposed to a highly dangerous road.

- Refused to consider high speed rail for Southwestern Indiana.

- Cheapened the design of the interstate so that future taxpayers will be stuck with a hefty bill to properly upgrade the interstate in the future

That is the bullies Mr. Ruff is referring to. What really is frustrating about the whole process is that everyone could have won out of this project if the I-69 supporters would not have been greedy. Washington, Indiana, Petersburg, Indiana, and most other areas that are on the proposed New Terrain I-69 are within 20-30 miles of US 41....

Depending on where you live here in Evansville, it will take you a good 15-20 miles minimum to reach I-64. We could have upgraded U.S 41 all the way to Terre Haute and then built a side spur from Vincennes or Sullivan to Bloomington. That would have eliminated almost all of the new terrain in the first 3 segments which run parallel to U.S 41 only 20-30 miles away.

"He is talking about Indiana University students and their parents who must worry each time they make the trip to Bloomington on narrow, curvy roads they share with coal trucks and slow-moving farm equipment.

He is talking about the folks in Petersburg and Washington who may need to see a medical specialist in Indianapolis and are concerned about getting there safely.

He is talking about high school band members from Newburgh or Evansville who travel by bus for competition in Indianapolis and hope to make it there without accident."
Again, what about those traveling to Vincennes? What about those traveling to Terre Haute? If the C&P is genuinely concerned about safety, why are they proposing to build an interstate which will make us dependent on the automobile? The automobile kills over 30,000 people a year. Building an interstate from the 1950s isn't the solution to safety, High Speed Rail is!

High Speed Rail is the answer to all of our problems we face with the automobile. It's quicker, cleaner, greener, safer, cheaper, nicer, and produces many,many more jobs while raising property values around it. High speed rail is the transportation solution of the 21st century. Not only will it get you there safely, it will also get you there fast at over 220 mph. If we build high speed rail, we will have people living in Bloomington while working in Evansville. With I-69, very few will be able to do that.

We also have a fair amount of tracks already laid that can be paired with High Speed Rail Right-Of-Way...

"Remember this: INDOT is building Interstate 69 at the request of people who for more than 50 years pleaded for a modern highway to Bloomington and Indianapolis."
This right here tells us exactly why we shouldn't build I-69. This project is well over 50 years old. We don't lay down horse and buggy trails anymore and we shouldn't build 1950s infrastructure, it's time to move on. We need to pay tribute to our 1950's and later history and heritage by saving great buildings and artifacts from those time periods that are already built such as Roberts Stadium, the Old Greyhound Bus Station, and the Old Courthouse and Jail. We need to preserve history not live in history!

"In the meantime, the first three sections of the highway between Evansville and Crane are under construction. The fourth section is the one threatened by Bloomington."
Like I said earlier, this is not something to be proud of. We just spent several million dollars and ended up with an interstate that is within, at the very farthest, 20-30 miles of U.S 41. We have destroyed a good chunk of the environment in Southern Indiana, we have uprooted many farms and families, and we still have yet to see any significant economic impact. By far and away, this has been a boondoggle of epic proportions. If we don't stop it now, it will go from a multi-million dollar boondoggle to a multi-billion dollar boondoggle.

"INDOT officials say they will take their time and consider their options. That's wise, as long as INDOT continues the rapid construction pace set by Gov. Mitch Daniels. In other words, don't stop now."

For those who believe we should keep going with I-69, consider this...

1. Why is a "direct route" to Indianapolis seen as necessary, yet Kentucky is upgrading their Western Kentucky Parkway and Pennyrile which isn't a direct route?

2. How will an I-69 bypass (I-164) provide a better economic impact than U.S 41 which goes right through the middle of Evansville?

3. Why is it okay to take $700 million from a Northern Indiana toll road, yet it is not okay to toll I-69 to give the money back and make the road self-sustaining?

4. If an interstate is such a great driver for economic development, than why aren't Terre Haute, Anderson, and Marion huge metro areas?

5. Why is safety an issue for Bloomington, Washington, and Evansville residents but the safety of those residents in Princeton, Vincennes, Sullivan, and Terre Haute is being ignored by the failure to upgrade U.S 41?

6. Why do we need a completely new terrain for the first 3 segments of I-69 when they run parallel to U.S 41 within 20-30 miles?

7. Which would you rather Evansville be: A crossroads of America rail station or a truck stop full of minimum wage jobs?

8. Why are we building an interstate when gas prices continue to rise, are expected to continue to rise, and driving amongst teenagers is becoming less popular?

9. How many people will be able to commute daily to Evansville from Indianapolis and Bloomington on an interstate where the speed limit is 70 mph versus High Speed Rail where speeds reach 220 mph and greater?

10. While I-69 is safER than state road 57, why is an automobile dependent interstate being pitched as a safety necessity when the auto kills over 30,000 Americans each year?

11. What are the true costs when I-69 is completely totaled up (Evv-Indy, Ohio River Bridge, maintenance costs, interchanges that will need to be added eventually)?

12. Why are we sacrificing thousands of acres of farmland, several hundred homes, and the habitats of all of our wildlife just to save a handful of minutes drive time?

13. If I-64 is at least 10-15 miles outside of Evansville, why can't all those cities on the first three segments thrive with an upgraded U.S 41 only 20-30 miles away?

14. If I-69 is bypassing the vast majority of Evansville, why can't it bypass Bloomington?

15. Why is I-69 only projected to create 4,600 jobs when I-69 supporters themselves have been claiming that 47,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent on infrastructure?

16. Of the jobs projected to be created by I-69, how many of those are jobs that will simply move from U.S 41-I-70 over to I-69? How many are quality jobs versus minimum wage jobs?

As I've been saying for some time now, there is a pal over Evansville. Unfortunately, it is going to keep getting stronger until we change our thought process. We absolutely have to start innovating.

We need to look at cities such as Chattanooga for our vision. Chattanooga, which only has 167,674 residents is thinking like the big cities. A few years ago, the Federal Railroad Administration released a vision for High Speed Rail that contained 11 corridors for development...

As you can see, Chattanooga was left off the list. Instead of going back to old methods of transportation such as the interstate, Chattanooga didn't give up. Not only did they not give up, they are aiming even higher than High Speed Rail.

Currently, high speed rail usually runs 110-220 mph. But, there is also another new rail technology called Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) where the train has no steel wheels and levitates over the track by magnets which power it. Maglev is capable of going over 310 mph. The only downside to Maglev is that it is double the price of High Speed Rail.

Maglev's price tag (which is still very competitive with the interstate construction costs) and being left off the High Speed Rail list hasn't kept Chattanooga down. No, they are planning on building a Maglev line from Chattanooga's airport to downtown Atlanta where it would connect with the rest of the high speed rail grid...

Instead of wasting billions after billions after billions of dollars on an interstate from the 1950s that will give us little to no benefits, we need to think like Chattanooga. We need to push for High Speed Rail and Maglev Rail to come to Evansville! They will be cleaner, greener, cheaper, faster, safer, more luxurious, and will raise property values through the roof. We need RAILS NOT ROADS!

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  2. What an eloquent and articulate response to why I-69 is a costly and wasteful project and why it is NOT needed, but merely wanted by a vocal MINORITY and not the majority of people. This is a classic case of how a bad idea has gotten pushed by a well funded lobby who wants a pet project to be shoved down the citizens' throats by an overbearing government and waste our tax money on an entirely unnecessary project. I applaud anyone who has taken the time to research what this project represents and how costly it will be and what it destroy in its wake. Hopefully common sense (and limited budgets) will prevail and help kill this project and bury it in a graveyard somewhere.

  3. Thank you very much for the comments Winmag. It is beyond me why anymore would support I-69 when the negatives of it are many while the positives are few. I-69 supporters have been greedy and selfish since day 1 and now it is finally catching up to them.

    Hopefully, the powers that be will pull the plug on this project before it wastes more dollars that should be going towards high speed rail. 80% of the US will be covered by hsr in 2025. I fear we will be in the 20%.