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Federal Transportation Dollars At Risk Over I-69

A letter signed by Indiana legislators calls for the Bloomington MPO to add I-69 back into its transportation plan.

Future I-69 Corridor

Photo: vistavision (Flickr)

The I-69 corridor was taken off the MPO agenda because community members, the Mayor, the city council, and the county council objected to it.

A letter signed by both of Indiana’s senators and all but two of the nine congressmen calls for the Bloomington Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee to add the 2-mile stretch of I-69 back into its transportation plan.

In the letter, the delegation writes that Kruzan holds “legitimate concerns about the project” but that he needs to work with the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration to resolve his concerns.

The MPO took I-69 out of its long range plans citing significant opposition from community members. The group is set to meet again in November.

I-69′s Economic Impact

Congressman Larry Buschon, who represents the 8th district, solicited support for the letter from all of Indiana’s delegation by stressing the potential economic impact of the interstate. He says it could create as many as 12,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic growth.

In a written statement, Senator Dan Coats wrote expanding I-69 is important “for long term economic growth in Monroe Country and across the state.”  He went on to encourage the city of Bloomington to work to move the project forward.

MPO Policy Committee Chairman Kent McDaniel says he is skeptical.

“Reports can be twisted to try and support any position you want if you’re good at it,” he says. “I have seen a number of reports recently that indicate that, if for example, you want to invest in things to create jobs, you get more return for your dollar of investment if you invest in public transportation facilities then you do in building highways.”

Federal Funding and Community Opposition

McDaniel says he is worried members of the MPO and transportation officials will not find a compromise and says Monroe County could lose all federal transportation dollars if it continues to oppose I-69.

“I suspect they will hold our feet to the fire and say ‘That’s it. If you don’t play games, play ball with us then you don’t get any more money.’  So, it’s a high price to pay,” he says.

McDaniel says there is nothing in the letter that will change his position about I-69.  He says the MPO originally removed I-69 from its plans because many community members, including the Mayor, the city council, and the county council objected to it. He says the letter was not a surprise.

“I think if you had polled most of those committee members ahead of time and asked them what the opinion was of our congressional delegation they probably would have expected the majority of the delegation to support the project,” McDaniel says.

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