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Standing up to a bully? Monroe County takes I69 off its highway plans

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — A Bloomington-area group has set up a possible showdown with the Indiana Department of Transportation after approving a local highway plan that does not include a section of the contentious $3 billion Interstate 69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville.

The policy committee of the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a new highway plan Friday that left out a proposed section of the extension in Monroe County.

Bloomington City Council member Andy Ruff, who sits on the policy committee, said Monroe County residents have unresolved questions on the road’s funding, the location of interchanges and how it will affect the environment.

"There comes a time when you stand up to a bully. It is time to stand up for ourselves,” Ruff told The Herald-Times.

The committee’s move surprised Sam Sarvis, INDOT’s deputy commissioner for major program management. He said the agency “would take a serious look at all discretionary funding” within Monroe County.

In 2009, the last time these two sides butted heads over conflicting highway plans, INDOT officials said as much as $32.4 million could be withheld from transportation projects in Monroe County. Local officials eventually assured INDOT they weren’t trying to block I-69’s construction, and the policy committee voted last year to include the I-69 project in its highway plan.

Lawyers representing I-69 opponents sent policy committee members a 23-page letter arguing against including the extension in the local plan. Among other things, it said no source of guaranteed funding had been identified as required by federal law, suggesting the policy committee could leave itself legally vulnerable.

Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan voted to exclude the extension Friday after backing it a year ago. He cited the issues raised in the letter and a question over whether INDOT would withhold local funding.


Posted 5/16/2011




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