In Association with

The I-69 Issue: Thoughts on The Evansville to Indianapolis Highway

Southwestern Indiana is faced with one of the most important issues it has ever seen: the I-69 Project. The issue of why, how, and where to develop an interstate which will link Canada, United States and Mexico has stirred strong emotions, and we would like to provide a forum for readers to share their views.

To kick off this forum we have asked representatives from two organizations to present their views. The Voices For I-69, directed by John Schwartz, does not advocate a specific route, but wants to ensure that Southwestern Indiana gets the I-69 link, and that it does not lose the route to Illinois. Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR), represented by president Thomas Tokarski, opposes all route alternatives that use significant new terrain, and has supported upgrading I-70 west of Indianapolis and U.S. 41 south of Terre Haute. We invited each of them to summarize their views.

We will present readers’ thoughts in the March issue. We hope you will take this opportunity to express your views - just email your comments to [email protected] and include your name, email address (so we can confirm - this will not be printed or shared), and where you are from. Let us know if you do or do not want your name included with your letter.

At the bottom of this article is important information for contacting CARR and The Voices For I-69, Governor O’Bannon, and Indiana Department of Transportation. INDOT’s web site has information on public meetings and forums.

See the proposed Routes for I-69

Why I-69 For Indiana?

Over one forth of Indiana with 1,000,000 people remains disconnected from the national transportation system. Southwestern Indiana has a 1930’s system of two lane highways designed to serve an agrarian economy.

When completed, I-69 will connect the Great Lakes, running the entire length of Indiana to the Mississippi River via the Ohio River. Our forefathers whose dream of this connection, could have not foreseen this international trade corridor that would unlock the isolation of the region.

There are four basic reasons to build a direct interstate from Evansville to Indianapolis: Economic Development – Opportunity for the region, and a transportation asset for all of Indiana.

Safety- The reduction of 10 deaths and 450 serious injuries per month that have taken place for the past 25 years.

Interlinkage- A network to all communities creating business opportunities, and a safer way for regional commuters.

Environmental – An improved economy that produces a tax base allowing for environmental infrastructure. E.g. water and sewage systems.

Indiana stands at the threshold of a new technology economy. Our state produces the largest number of technology graduates nationally, yet we lead in the exportation of them to other states with 21st Century economies.

This new economy depends on well educated technology employees, a good tax climate, and a transportation system. Indiana has all of these and more. What southwestern Indiana lacks is the interstate access so needed by dynamic industry of the future. Also the technology infrastructure such as fiber optic communication is needed.

Some fear that all of this talk about a new economy will destroy the beauty of the region. On the contrary, if a network of transportation and technology infrastructure is connected to the entire region, industry can be free to evaluate the farthest parts of the region. Yes tourism will increase and many will come to see our attractions. Folks will be able to live in rural settings and enjoy the great Hoosier way of life. The only difference will be the opportunity, hope, improved economic conditions for the region.

Yes this is Why I-69 is needed in Indiana, and soon.

John C. Schwartz
Executive Director
The Voices For I-69, Inc.

Citizens for Appropriate Rural Road’s (CARR) Speaks Out

Southwest Indiana is primarily a rural area of small towns and scenic highways. Its farms and forests create an economically viable, productive region that is also blessed with great natural beauty. The rural way of life it supports is treasured by many. The pace of life is slower and a little less stressful. The air is relatively clean and the possibility of finding peace and quiet still exists. But all this may change.

Governor O'Bannon and the Indiana Department of Transportation want to put an international, NAFTA truck corridor through Southwest Indiana. The promoters of I-69 brag that it will be one of the largest truck routes on the entire continent, carrying an estimated 10,000 trucks and tens of thousands of cars per day.

Of the fourteen routes being studied for I-69, only one, US 41 and I-70, would use existing roadways. That alternative would upgrade US 41, an existing 4-lane divided highway, to an interstate. Just south of Terre Haute a bypass would connect 41 to I-70. Other alternatives would use new terrain, cutting through our farms and forests.

The US41/I-70 route would avoid numerous environmental and social problems and save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. Those savings could be used to improve transportation around the state, making the roads we use every day safer.

Building a new terrain I-69 will have major impacts on Southwest Indiana.

  • Indiana is currently losing more farmland to development than any other state except Texas. Thousands more acres of farmland will be taken for a new terrain I-69, more than for any other project in the entire state.
  • Thousands of acres of forests and wetlands would be destroyed. The sprawl that follows an interstate will result in the loss of many more acres of forests, farms, and wetlands.
  • Numerous threatened species of animals will be put at greater risk due to lost and altered habitat and highway-related air, water, and noise pollution.
  • Downtown businesses will suffer as development swells near the interchanges.
  • Many local roads will be closed, disrupting communities and local economies throughout the region.

These impacts, and others, will seriously degrade the quality of life in Southwest Indiana. That quality is increasingly important to many Hoosiers.

Well over 100,000 individual Hoosiers have signed petitions opposing a new terrain route for I-69. Fourteen newspapers in Indiana have editorialized in opposition to the new terrain route and/or in support of the US41/I-70 alternative. NBC's Tom Brokaw spotlighted the new terrain route as a "Fleecing of America".

Southwest Indiana is not without problems, but there are other strategies to bring jobs to this region that are less costly and less destructive.

Based on the research of many transportation experts, additional interstate highways are not necessary for most businesses. Upgrading existing roads would satisfy most of our transportation needs.

The unique character of SW Indiana is worth preserving. We can build on the beauty and strength of this region and preserve its valuable qualities. We can upgrade and improve existing roads rather than building a new terrain interstate through our farms and forests.

Submitted by Thomas & Sandra Tokarski

The Honorable Frank O’Bannon
Governor of the State of Indiana
200 West Washington St.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
FAX 317-232-3443
[email protected]

Lyle Sadler, Project Manager
Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT)
100 North Senate Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204-2218
24-hour Toll-free Hotline: 1-877-463-9386 (877-INDY-EVN)

Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads, Inc.
PO Box 54
Stanford, IN 47463
[email protected]

The Voices For I-69
Executive Director, John C. Schwartz
P.O. Box 20121
Evansville, IN 47708-0121
Phone: 812-425-8147
FAX 812-421-5883
[email protected]

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