||Thank you to those who responded to the I-69 issue that we presented in the February issue. Following are all of the responses we received, just as they were received. It is apparent the Interstate 69 issue evokes strong feelings, and encourage those on both sides of the issue to make your opinions known to Governor OBannon and your legislators. (use the links below to jump to each letter).
There is not enough room to detail all the reasons why building a new terrain interstate through southwestern Indiana is one of the stupidest and most wasteful public projects that has been conceived of by humans. But let me try.
1. This state is losing 88,000 acres of rural agricultural and forest land every year to sprawl and development. This is a significant amount of a fixed resource and a new terrain interstate would not only consume 4000 more acres under pavement, it would encourage even more rampant sprawl along its length.
2. Fossil fuels are a limited resource as well. The world's supply of oil is a finite resource no matter how much more drilling is done. As the third world develops, the global consumption of oil will increase exponentially. This resource will run out in the foreseeable future, so why would we consider building a huge project that benefits the wasteful use of a precious and limited resource.
3. This project is clearly another way to take from the poor and middle class and give to the rich. It is supported by big businesses, developers, urbanites, and politicians, and it will forcibly take land and other property away from the farmers and rural landowners along the way. The time for eminent domain should be long over in this country in a day and age where private property rights have been given such high value and government intrusion is despised with a passion.
4. There are NO environmental benefits to cutting a four-lane swath through farms and forests. Regarding air pollution, it may reduce stop and go traffic on current two-lane roads, but will more than make up for that with increased air pollution by drastically increasing the total number of vehicles traveling the route. And paving 4000 acres of new terrain and fragmenting natural habitat will do nothing but degrade the environment.
5. Just why exactly are people pushing for a government-funded project that will cost over a billion dollars of taxpayer money to benefit mostly special interests? This type of political pork barrel project is just the type of thing that needs to be eliminated from a budget that is several trillion dollars in debt. This money does not grow on some sort of money tree -- it is forcibly extracted from working people's paychecks, and needs to be used for better things than a major new road.
6. If a new road were to be built, it would require millions and millions of dollars to maintain into perpetuity. Again, this is taxpayer money that proponents are so willing to spend for their pet project. This year, especially, when the Indiana state budget is falling short of projections, we should become more aware that government funding is required to pay for building and perpetual maintenance of such projects. That money is not guaranteed to ever be there, and spending needs to be kept in check.
7. Any money allocated for roads would be much more wisely used to upgrade and maintain existing roads. Last time I checked, almost everyone had a local road that they complained needed to be fixed.
8. If John Schwartz wants to eliminate traffic deaths, he should lobby to eliminate automobiles and driving. There will always be fatalities when millions of cars and trucks travel millions of miles every day. Spending a billion dollars on a new road that takes people's land away from them is not any kind of a legitimate solution to this problem.
9. If Indiana produces the largest number of technology graduates, and Indiana stands at the threshold of the new technology economy, why would building a new road that is made to transport old economy products do anything to enhance it? The new technology economy uses things like wireless communication, fiber optics, the internet, and satellite communication to do things. Maybe someone should tell John Schwartz just what the technology sector consists of.
10. Finally, it may surprise John Schwartz and his cohorts, but there are a large number of people that like living in a rural landscape that is southern Indiana. Not every acre has to be paved over to build a road or the associated sprawl that goes along with the interchanges. Not every tree has to be pushed over and not every acre of topsoil needs to be scraped off to build another super center. Not every farm has to be subdivided for another housing subdivision, and not every waterway has to be lined with riprap to hold back the erosion that goes with development. It should not be anyone's goal to see how large a percentage of the land base they can turn into urban, suburban, and exurban sprawl. There is a thing called quality of life in rural southern Indiana, and I am revolted and disgusted by people who are trying to use my tax dollars to destroy that to achieve their own selfish ends.
Before stating my own views on the I-69 project, I would like to comment on the articles by Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Tokarski. Mr. Schwartz gives "...four basic reasons to build a direct interstate from Evansville to Indianapolis...", and I find nothing in these reasons that would not be met by the upgrading of existing roads that Mr. Tokarski supports. Mr. Schwartz might argue that the US 41 and I-70 route is not "direct" enough, but the travel times for the upgraded route and a new terrain route would be nearly equal.
I don't believe that Indiana will gain anything, besides a few minutes less travel time, by building a new terrain route. Consider what we will lose. The enormous additional cost should be enough to make anyone think twice, but of far greater consequence will be the irreversible damage to the land of Southern Indiana. A new terrain highway will degrade and divide life-giving forests and farms with countless tons of pavement, and the right-of-ways will cut a far wider swath than the highway itself.
By choosing to upgrade existing roads, Indiana will meet the needs of the transportation industry AND preserve much that is unique and priceless in Southern Indiana.
I live in Owen County just off of SR 67. We are directly affected by 5 of the proposed 14 routes for the extension of I-69. I have spent a lot of time looking at economic studies and have yet to find any that indicate the benefits promised by those advocating a highway. A very recent study conducted by the Indiana Business Resource Center compared per capita income in all 92 Indiana counties in 1969 and 1998. The 4 worst performing counties are ALL on or have interstate 65 extremely close to them. They also are near I 80/94 and the 80/90 toll road. The top 2 performing counties Brown and Monroe counties, of course, have no interstate.
Further investigation of the results of this study show that when comparing the top 20 counties, as measured by per capita income, and the bottom 20 counties the difference is not the presence or absence of an interstate, but whether there is a large city within or close to the county. It is true that most of the top 20 counties have an interstate in them or close by, but many of the bottom counties do also. None of the bottom 20 counties have a major metropolitan area in or boardering them.
Of the top 20 counties only three either do not have a large city within or next to their county. None of these three DuBois, Kosciusko, or Tipton. has an interstate within their borders, or close by.
How do proponents of the highway explain the fact that counties like Lake, Porter, and Laporte, counties in Northwest Indiana that have not one but two interstates have seen their rank in terms of per capita income drop in the past 30 years while counties like Brown and Monroe counties that are so "isolated" have made great gains?
Those of us who live in Southwest Indiana are here because of the lack of an interstate. We do not want to live where there is congestion, constant noise and pollution. Owen county is one of the fastest growing counties in the state in terms of population precisely because there is no interstate here. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find an open rural area in which to live.This is what gives our land such value. For many of us, our farms and homes are all we have. An interstate close to us will lower their value.
It is true that we can use better roads in Southwest Indiana, but an interstate is not what we need. An interstate is a limited access highway. In Owen county there will only be one exit in the whole county. It will divide the county in half, but not be accessible to those of us who live and travel here every day. It will increase our travel time due to closed county roads. It will increase the number of accidents on our roads and increase the response time of emergency vehicles like police, rescue squads,and firetrucks. Farmers will have to travel miles out of their way on slow moving tractors and combines to get to fields that are easily accessible now.
Improving the roads we have will give us adequate access to interstates that surround us already with out destroying our way of life and property values.
Dear Carolyn, Governor O'Bannon and Bill Kelley and his co-workers at INDOT,
This letter, submitted for inclusion in the Southern Indiana "online Magazine", states what I, as a part-time professional photographer, believe about the proposed New Terrain routes for the projected I-69 extension. I share it here with you all; the text also being available, along with illustrative pictures, at: www.indiana-inter.net .
I believe that any new extension of I-69 should be done by upgrading I-70 to Terre Haute and US 41 because of the disruption to the peoples, land, landscape and communities that exist in Southern and Southwest Indiana; a now-irreplaceable part of Indiana that would be wrongfully changed forever if the contemplated road were built.
The interior of Southwest Indiana, being perhaps the most representative part of Southern Indiana in general, is in need of being preserved as intact as possible for its intrinsic value, both landscape-wise and as a "cultural refuge" -- a touchstone -- as it is still closest to the concept of "traditional Indiana", an endangered species, if you will. Not all of Indiana easily lends itself to the wholesale, cookie-cutter, bulldozed-over version of economic development so in vogue in the rest of the state and most of America in general. Most of Southern Indiana that remains undeveloped needs to stay that way. Observant writers to various state newspapers have noted that the most development that could be realistically anticipated in such parts is of the superficial, defacing type -- to both the landscape and human spirit... specifically: gas stations, fast food joints and motels centered around the exits. These businesses generate only marginal livings for the local employees, not giving the dramatic economic improvements that are held forth like carrots-on-sticks by the cheerleaders for the proposed New-Terrain route.
The roadway and the road-building activities involved for a new-terrain route would be inordinately disruptive to the landscape, the land-owners, the communities, the local Amish, to say nothing of plant and animal life, as copiously noted elsewhere by informed parties in reputable print sources. These parts of the state, through a type of serendipitous benign neglect, have become a preserve-of-sorts of the way Indiana used to be: more rural, less-developed; having a slower, more authentic way of life and look about it. Just as the Jefferson Proving Grounds has inadvertently preserved a large, notable tract of land in its close-to-natural state, the fact that Southwest and Southern Indiana ISN'T developed as much is NOT a bad thing.
The people living there know exactly what it's like and choose to either stay there or move elsewhere. No one is sentenced to live there against their will. This state, having the 2nd-worst rate of suburban sprawl in the nation behind Texas, doesn't need to bulldoze anew into a now-rare remaining sector and import into it that homogenization representative of the main part, forcing onto the Southern and Southwest sectors the shallow culture and values inescapable for us here (in Indianapolis), solely for the interests of landscape-defoliating retail developers and road construction companies. The interior of these parts should STAY relatively undeveloped and intact, close to what they are now, a subtle-yet-tangible cultural resource for the inhabitants and the rest of us. It exists now as an object-lesson of that much-touted new concept of Cultural Tourism, needing only to be seen for what it is and preserved, if we step up to the plate and have the gumption and foresight to act and deny this route, through means such as this hearing or binding statewide ballot propositions, putting the whole question up to the vote, if necessary.
The areas being discussed are the Soul of Indiana and grow smaller each year already. Books such as Hartley Alley's l965 "Southern Indiana" and the National Geographic's March, 1976 article on Southern Indiana by James Alexander Thom give glimpses of this area and reveal how we stand to lose even more if this road goes through. Indiana photographers such as Darryl Jones, Rich Clark, INDOT's official lensman Bill Kelley and myself can attest to the fact that our state is indeed photogenic and still has representative areas left of land and lifestyles harking back to the Indiana of our collective memory.
Indiana is not a large state -- the smallest West of the Alleghenies -- but we used to have the country's biggest "best" hardwood forest and North America's largest wetlands, the Kankakee Valley, patronized by European royalty for its hunting; both long-gone in the interest of development concepts of the times. Should we allow history to repeat itself in this next area in question? Granted, Evansville wants better connections with Indianapolis. Also, the Evansville-Terre Haute corridor needs improving. Bloomington has spoken through their city council that they don't want I-69 in their town. Many or most of those in the interior of the Southwest of the state don't want I-69 there, either, save for the vested or beholden interests. If we MUST have a 69 extension, so that dollars aren't "lost" to Illinois and so that we can export our jobs to Mexico more quickly and expediently, put the road where people want it and can appreciate it, in the US 41 corridor, even if it ends up costing more or utilizing more miles. Governor O'Bannon: You grew up in Southern Indiana. Don't let city slickers and other politicians unduly influence you against your better judgment. Why not be true to your roots and help to spare Southwest and Southern Indiana of despoilment, at least for our grandchildren's future enjoyment and cultural needs if not for our own. They will thank us that we put our feet down, through hearings like this, and binding ballot propositions if needed, and saved what's left of the Real Indiana for them, though some in the here and now don't have priorities like that.
All Feature Articles, artwork and photographs ©2001 by Dervish Design. Some information on the 'County Info' pages is taken directly from brochures published by Visitors Bureaus and Chambers of Commerce.