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Feds: MPO Cannot Stop I-69

Representatives from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration met with members of the Bloomington Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization’s I-69 subcommittee this afternoon.

The message from the start of the meeting was clear, when Bob Tally of the Federal Highway Administration told the subcommittee that the MPO has no authority to stop INDOT from building I-69.

Currently, the MPO has not included section four of I-69 in its Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP), which means federal funding cannot be used on the less than two mile stretch of section four the MPO has planning jurisdiction over. INDOT can still build I-69 through Monroe County, it would just have to use state funding exclusively.

Subcommittee Chair Richard Martin says despite INDOT’s intent on completing section four of the highway regardless, the MPO’s involvement in the process is beneficial to having a hand in planning the road.

“The more we holler about it, the better they (INDOT) are,” he says. “Maybe it’s the squeaky wheel gets the grease kind of thing. We do have some fairly serious concerns we absolutely want addressed. We’re still a long ways from knowing that they will be addressed in acceptable ways.”

Martin says that while many people may be disappointed the MPO does not have authority to stop the highway, many of the committee’s questions about I-69 have been answered by state and federal officials.

According to INDOT Project Manager Sandra Flum, the state will be working with the MPO to address local concerns.

“It’s an on-going conversation,” she says, “it’s an ongoing dialogue about community needs and the facility that ends up being built.”

During the MPO’s last meeting, Martin confirmed that if the MPO does not approve a TIP through 2015 that INDOT approves of, federal funding totaling several million dollars would be lost by the county. That money would primary affect Bloomington Transit, which is funded greatly by federal grants.

The entire MPO will meet on November 4th to decide what their next step will be. The MPO could vote to include I-69 in its TIP, or could table the vote until 2012.

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