The Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization has approved the construction of I-69 with a 7 to 6 vote.
MPO members generally said they were opposed to I-69, but many said opposing it would be detrimental to Monroe County. If the MPO did not include the interstate in its Transportation Improvement Plan, the Indiana Department of Transportation had said it would not sign off on the TIP and the county could then lose federal funding for all MPO projects after 2012.
Public comment in support and opposition to the interstate lasted for nearly two and a half hours before the vote was taken. In previous meetings, the comments were dominated by road opponents, but several people spoke in favor of the project at Friday’s meeting. Before votes were cast, business leaders expressed their reasoning for why the MPO should include the interstate in its TIP.
“We believe the decision for where this route for this highway is going to run has already been made, and we believe it’s important to get on board and have it come through our region in a uniquely Bloomington way,” Vice President of Cook Medical’s Industry and Government Affairs said.
Long-time opponent of the interstate Tom Tokarski says I-69 will create more problems for the Monroe County.
“I-69 is a major tragedy in the making,” he says. ” It is not a question of if something goes wrong with this project. It already has over and over. It is a question of when and where the next tragedy will strike.”
Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan also spoke against the road, saying it “threatens the uniqueness of the community.”
According to INDOT Deputy Commissioner Jim Stark, his agency will continue to work with the MPO as construction in Monroe County begins.
“We made a commitment today to the Policy Committee that we would be working with them hand-in-hand through all of this. That offer has been there for the different community to be part of the planning process”
INDOT says agency officials will hand out contracts for the section of the highway that run through Monroe County this fall.
INDOT had threatened to remove its discretionary spending from Monroe County road projects if the MPO had not voted in favor of I-69.
Indiana Public Media’s Chris Ayers and Gretchen Frazee contributed to this report.