Letter: State officials have botched I-69 project

To the editor:

As a lifelong southside resident, I attended both recent I-69 meetings at Perry Meridian and Martinsville high schools, along with many others over the years. It seems obvious the Indiana Department of Transportation does not want to alleviate traffic congestion in this area.

There are eight major intersections in Marion and Johnson counties with only three interchanges planned. Simple elementary math tells you this will not work since INDOT wants to almost triple the traffic on Southport, County Line and Smith Valley roads.

Additional half interchanges, like I-465 and Mann Road, need to be placed at Fairview, Olive Branch and Stones Crossing roads. INDOT says federal regulations do not allow that type of interchange today. However, that is exactly what is being done at the new Epler Avenue interchange with this I-69 proposed route.

These same people also say regulations require interchanges now to be at least 1 mile apart. County Line to Fairview to Smith Valley are all 1.1 miles apart, so both of INDOT’s objections are negated.

Stones Crossing Road is 3/4 mile north of the planned County Road 144 interchange. Indiana Department of Transportation says again federal regulations do not allow this interchange less than 1 mile. However, state roads 44 and 252 interchanges in Martinsville are only 1/2-mile apart.

But to possibly appease INDOT again, maybe they could curve Stones Crossing Road slightly north for an interchange to meet this one mile requirement. Also, maybe work with Johnson County and extend Olive Branch Road to this new Stones Crossing Road and label the interchange Stones Crossing/Olive Branch exit.

Furthermore, the planned interchanges at Southport and Smith Valley are planned exit ramps with traffic lights. With the volume of traffic that will exit, this will create a bigger traffic mess than Castleton. County Line Road has roundabouts and again, the vast amount of traffic exiting here will almost block any through traffic.

The area on the southwest quadrant of each of these interchanges is open land. An exit loop should be placed here for all this southbound traffic to loop around and head east without stopping at each respective road. No backups and no traffic lights. Amazing!

Moreover, I asked INDOT at these meetings if Indianapolis, Johnson County and Greenwood were going to widen to four lanes Southport, County Line and Smith Valley Roads. Their response was, “not our problem.” They were only concerned with I-69.

It will be the state highway department’s problem when traffic keeps backing up on this new interstate because of poor planning to local roads that cannot handle this volume of traffic.

I may not have all the answers, but with more interchanges and better traffic flow with exit loops, this should help solve the traffic problems in this area for the next 30 to 40 years.

Amazingly, INDOT officials even admit that the 2020 start/2026 completion dates are not firm and could stretch out further. The state highway department released to the public and news media in 1967 that they had purchased all the land in the Castleton area to complete I-69 to I-465. At the same time these officials also announced that within three years all the land would be purchased for I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville.

Even today, highway officials will admit that this project is almost 50 years behind schedule, and counting! If INDOT had been working on this project over these past 50 years, we would not have the mess we are in today. Just look at INDOT’s handling of the reconstruction between Martinsville and Bloomington. This section is two years behind schedule. Unbelievable!

In addition, all of this does not include the over $1 billion missing from the federal government since our federal gas taxes pay for 80 percent of an interstate construction. Where did this money go or did we not even pursue it? The money is there to complete I-69 immediately with no additional state funds.

However, it now looks like motorists are going to be hit with new and unnecessary gas tax increases due to the incompetence and gross mismanagement in the statehouse.

Lawrence W. Wallman