BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Federal Highway Administration won't increase its oversight of the Interstate 69 extension though southern Indiana despite a request from several local government officials and citizens groups.
The Hoosier Environmental Council, Bloomington Mayor Mark Kruzan and others asked the federal agency in a letter last month for greater review of the I-69 project because of "rising costs, its considerable and not yet fully disclosed environmental impact and its controversial nature."
Construction work is under way on the southernmost segment of the 142-mile extension between Evansville and Indianapolis. State officials have been working to cut costs as the estimated price has risen from the original $1.3 billion to $3.1 billion.
Robert F. Tally Jr., a division administration for the Federal Highway Administration, responded in a Dec. 22 letter that the agency takes its oversight responsibilities for the project very seriously.
"We continue to be involved with the I-69 projects on nearly a daily basis," Tally's letter said.
Kruzan told The Herald-Times he's not opposing the project just to be difficult.
"I do think this is a bad idea," he said. "You can either keep objecting for the sake of objecting, or you can participate productively and try to influence the way things are being done."
The mayor signed the letter before state and local officials resolved a dispute over property in the I-69 route. The state had threatened to withhold tens of millions of dollars for projects around Bloomington during that dispute.
Samuel Sarvis, a deputy commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation, said he doesn't believe continued opposition to the I-69 project by some local elected officials will jeopardize their working relationship.
One objection the projects opponents raised with federal officials is that by dividing the I-69 work into several sections, it avoids the $500 million threshold for federal rules on "major projects."
Tim Maloney, senior policy director for the Hoosier Environmental Council, said he hopes continued opposition to the project will cause reconsideration of the decision to build the highway.
"It's calling attention to the continuing support for picking a different route and the continuing controversy over the state's preferred route," Maloney said.
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