I-69 work needs more supervision

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(Bloomington) Herald-Times

The state of Indiana needs to do a better job of looking out for the interests of Hoosiers, especially Monroe County Hoosiers, when it comes to construction of Interstate 69.

Section 5 of the project, the part that starts just south of Bloomington and goes north to Martinsville, has run into problems.

Not for the first time.

Again, the private development company the state picked to build the highway has fallen behind on payments for work that’s been done. So major contractor Crider & Crider of Bloomington has stopped working, again, until it gets paid.

State officials aren’t saying so, but this could further delay completion of the 21-mile project, which already has been pushed back once by more than six months. Any further delays would mean further headaches and safety issues for motorists and their passengers.

Recent accidents in the construction zone have shined a bright light on the safety issues. One was a chain reaction crash Sept. 2 that occurred when a tractor-semitrailer rig plowed into slowing and stopped traffic in the construction zone. Eight people were injured; fortunately, no one was killed.

This public-private partnership to build Section 5 is an unusual and complicated partnering of multiple and changing players. The Indiana Finance Authority, an arm of state government, picked the private company to design and build this part of the road, then maintain it for 35 years. The selection was approved in early 2014 by the state budget committee and Gov. Mike Pence.

Companies tied to the consortium I-69 Development Partners include Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V., which appears to be out of the picture, and Isolux Corsan USA, which has an office in Austin, Texas. Canadian company PSP Investments and a newly formed Canadian company, ROADIS, are now involved.

Isolux Corsan is the company that’s supposed to be paying Crider & Crider, according to the state, while officials for Isolux Corsan place blame back on the state for some permitting issues. That’s an overly simplistic way to describe this technical and maddening dispute affecting anyone who drives on Ind. 37 as it’s upgraded to interstate standards.

When this public-private partnership idea came to the surface, state leaders said they would make sure things went as smoothly as possible. In a story in the (Bloomington) Herald-Times Feb. 28, 2014, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said INDOT would be responsible for overseeing progress on a daily basis to guarantee the private developer followed requirements of the contract.

Mark Kruzan, then the mayor of Bloomington, said at the time, “Section 5 will essentially be the guinea pig part of the interstate” because of the unique arrangement between the state and I-69 Development Partners.

Last week, current Mayor John Hamilton clearly suggested being a guinea pig isn’t working out.

“I strongly urge the governor and lieutenant governor to step in and fix this mess before further damage is done to our economy, our community and the safety and lives of our residents and visitors,” Hamilton said.

Gov. Mike Pence, who’s a candidate for vice president; Lt. Gov. Eric Holcomb, a candidate for governor; and U.S. Rep. Todd Young, a candidate for U.S. Senate, all should step off the campaign trail and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Hamilton and Pierce to represent Hoosiers in this complex and messy situation. Those three supported I-69; now they need to make sure they support Hoosiers whose lives are being disrupted.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.