On Monday, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly said what a lot of us have been thinking for a long time. Nothing says state government is slighting this corner of Indiana quite like Cline Avenue.
In 2009, the Cline Avenue Bridge was shut down for safety reasons. Then-Gov. Mitch Daniels promptly vowed the bridge would be replaced.
Had that promise been kept, we might have been using a new bridge by now.
The Indiana Department of Transportation refused to pony up the money needed to replace that bridge. Instead, we're still waiting for construction to begin on a toll bridge.
A toll bridge is better than nothing, but it's not the answer Northwest Indiana deserved from the Hoosier Holy Land.
Donnelly correctly noted the $3.8 billion proceeds that funded Daniels' Major Moves 10-year highway spending spree came from the lease of the Indiana Toll Road. Some of that money stayed in northern Indiana where it was generated, but the lion's share of that northern Indiana money went downstate. And when it was time to rebuild a vital Northwest Indiana bridge, none of that money was returned for it.
As if that weren't bad enough, the remaining stretch of Cline Avenue has gone into severe disrepair. The Indiana State Police even had to shut down the highway because so many cars were damaged by enormous potholes.
We understand potholes develop in winter, and this has been a bad winter. We also understand INDOT has signed a contract for pavement upkeep on Cline Avenue for work that can't begin until the weather improves. But what took INDOT so long to approve this work?
Transportation is vital to the Northwest Indiana economy, yet INDOT isn't showing the leadership Northwest Indiana needs.
First it was refusing to spend the money necessary to replace -- not build new, but replace -- a vital part of the region's transportation infrastructure. Then the state let the remaining portion of Cline Avenue fall into disrepair.
"How can you call yourself the Indiana Department of Transportation when you won't even rebuild a road?" Donnelly asked. "This is a road that has deteriorated because of a lack of maintenance over the years, and our obligation is to fix it and get it done."
Who in Northwest Indiana doesn't agree with that?
Donnelly's remarks touched a nerve at INDOT. We're glad.
Indiana is the crossroads of America, and those roads have to be maintained throughout the state, not just in the Hoosier Holy Land.