If you are new to Indiana, there are mysteries you need to understand. One of those is called Interstate 69, the highway being built between Indianapolis, Bloomington, Crane and Evansville.
I-69 now runs from Michigan via Fort Wayne, skirting Marion, Muncie and Anderson, to the northeast corner of Indianapolis. The current construction extends the road to the southwestern part of the state. There is the first mystery. Why do people (particularly those from the Terre Haute region) refer to this project as the Indianapolis to Evansville road?
The purpose of the road is to increase connectivity between the state’s largest city, key resources at Bloomington, Crane and on down to Evansville. Traffic directly from Evansville to Indianapolis is incidental to this larger scope. Opening a major section of the state to contemporary transportation is the chief idea.
The idea of running I-69 over I-70 from Indianapolis to Terre Haute and then south on U.S. 41 is the fantasy of a frustrated community. It was a plan that ran counter to good economic development principles.
A second mystery is why a persistent faction believes serious environmental damage will be done by I-69. Repeated responsible studies have shown no appreciable deterioration in environmental qualities as a result of I-69. Nonetheless opposition continues for opposition’s sake.
This is tradition at work. Current opponents of I-69 are the successors to those who rejected four-lane Ind. 37. Important voices in the early 1970s feared the deterioration of life in Bloomington if Ind. 37 was transformed from a killer highway to a safer route. Similar arguments can still be heard today.
Amazingly, the same arguments that were used against I-64, I-65 and I-70 are being employed against the extension of I-69. Farms will be divided in two. Neighbors will be cut off from one another. Existing roads are good enough to handle existing traffic. Projections of future traffic based on a modern highway are unrealistic.
All this negative foreboding disappeared as we adjusted to new patterns and realized the benefits of the new roads. Yet today there are still those who would leave a gap in the I-69 route. They would stop construction when the road is complete between Evansville and Bloomington.
Another I-69 mystery is the idea there is not enough money to complete the route. That is false. There is money, but the Indiana General Assembly won’t allow it to be used. When the I-69 project was approved by the Legislature, it explicitly prohibited a toll road from Bloomington to Indianapolis. This was done, as I recall, to satisfy a clique and claque from Martinsville and southwest Indianapolis.
Opening I-69 as a toll road makes sense. With current technology such as the EZ Pass used on the Northern Indiana Toll Road, collection costs are reduced, traffic moves smoothly and customer satisfaction is high.
Certainly, a toll road will give opponents another weak argument against I-69, but the time has come to recognize those who want to drive on a premium road must be prepared to pay a premium price.