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Funding For I-69 To Put The Brakes On Other State Road Projects

August 8, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS - As the state moves forward with Section 4 of the extension of Highway I-69 across southwest Indiana, opposition continues to be raised. The Hoosier Environmental Council (HEC) believes current funding methods for the I-69 extension will take away from other Indiana road projects.

Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Council, says that, now that the $700 million earmarked from the Indiana Toll Road lease has been exhausted, I-69 will require a big chunk of the state's traditional funding budget, and that could edge out other projects.

"We don't think, politically, that the state's going to be able to continue spending this amount on I-69 without creating significant resentment from communities all around the state."

Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) spokesman Will Wingfield says the funding for the latest section of I-69 had not been previously identified.

The HEC favors using the existing I-70 to U.S. 41, the Indianapolis-to-Evansville link. Proponents of the new route say it means construction jobs and will bring new economic possibilities downstate.

Maloney says that, up to this point in construction, money earmarked from the leasing of the Indiana Toll Road has been used to build I-69 from Evansville to the Crane Naval Warfare Center.

"Now, the only source of funding remaining to continue building I-69 is what's called traditional funding."

Maloney says traditional funding is from federal and state gas taxes, and is the general fund for road construction projects all over Indiana. INDOT says $600 million from the Toll Road lease was used for the first three sections of the new Interstate. The remaining $100 million will be used on I-69 in the future.

Maloney says that, with I-69 turning to traditional funding, other projects may see delays.

"For all the roads and bridges that INDOT is responsible for, it turns out over the next several years, I-69 is going to consume about one-fifth of all the available funding."

INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield says states are given discretion to invest those funds, and he says Congress has designated I-69 as a high-priority corridor.

Leigh DeNoon, Public News Service - IN