Thursday, January 25, 2007

Major Moves = Major Fraud

Senate President Pro Tem David Long and Sen. Tom Wyss (R-Fort Wayne) today announced their support for building new toll roads proposed by the governor, including the Indiana Commerce Connector and the Illiana Expressway. What disturbed me was a claim by Sen. Wyss during the press conference that I-69 could not be built without a privately-financed outer toll road around Indianapolis, unless taxes were raised. Sen Wyss is quoted by WTHR as saying:

"The connector is the basis for completion of I-69. Without the connector and being a toll connector, I believe the continuation of I-69 from Evansville is impossible. There is just not going to be the funds available for that unless there are some dramatic tax increases that we want to do to gasoline for that section. It can't be done," said Wyss.
Excuse me Sen. Wyss, but I'm not an idiot. When the legislature passed Major Moves last year allowing for the privatization of the Indiana Toll Road, the public was told unequivocally that the plan would allow for the construction of not only I-69 from Indianapolis to Evansville, but also a Hoosier Heartland highway from Lafayette to Fort Wayne, I-31 expressway from Indianapolis to South Bend and 2 new bridges over the Ohio River among other projects. The toll road deal netted $3.8 billion, more than anticipated by the governor. That money has been sitting in the bank drawing interest, and not a single one of these projects has moved forward in any meaningful way.

Yes, the plan called for I-69 to be a toll road from Evansville to Martinsville, but apparently that is now all forgotten. This latest development is too much like my recent experience refinancing the mortgage on my home. Everytime I thought I had struck a bargain with the mortgage broker, some new condition appeared out of nowhere. It's no fun chasing a moving target, but that's what we apparently got with Major Moves last year. Let's not mince words and call it what it really is: Major Fraud.


The Urbanophile said...

Advance, in fairness, a lot of those projects will take awhile to get off the ground. Major projects require years of lead time even with funding secured. INDOT in fact is about to issue consulting RFP's for about $1.2 billion in central Indiana improvements, including US 31.

Having said that, why these projects will take so long when the Governor says he can start construction on the Illiana Expressway in three years is a mystery. I think the state can do better

I suspect the real problem with the I-69 extension is that his financial pals told him the toll road idea was a dog that won't hunt. The projected traffic volumes are already so low it is pathetic. I don't think it had a prayer of financing itself as a toll road. Hence the need for the ICC to generate even more money. Actually, the huge danger is that the governor claims that the I-465 and I-69 improvements are not needed in his Commerce Connector world and diverts those funds to building I-69. That would be a disaster for Indiana as those roads are dead stopped at peak hour today and need immediate relief.

I personally don't believe the I-69 extension needs to be built at all. This was always primarily a political, not a transportation project. If you look around at most of these mega huge projects in Indiana, you'll find that they were originated by local politicans in various locales, not by transportation engineers.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The I-69 and US 31 plans have been laying around for decades. It's a total bait and switch. What we now know is that Daniels has no intention of building the I-69 extension until the damn outer toll road is built--the public be damned. This is all about lining the pockets of road contractors and some developers who will cash in on the new toll road around Indy. We don't need that Commerce Connector. The plans already call for more lanes and commuter routes along I-465, as well as more lanes for I-70. The state's own study nixed the idea of an outer toll road-- a study the governor tried to lie about it until the Star called him out on it.

Anonymous said...

Time for ask an engineer.

465 on the east side is done. Built out. You might get a lane south of Washington added, but when you start seeing barrier walls (69-ppike) you're done with future expansion. Westside 465 is in design and it will be built-out after construction.

The current Borman expansion is the same. It's done. A through route has to be built around.

69 is a political nightmare. The money spent "studying" it is a joke. To be fair, I don't recall it being a part of Major Moves. The fed's have wanted it and promised to fund it, though only a few miles has been allocated. I suspect that governor's of both parties expect the fed's to chip in more.

Most of the MM's funding goes to projects that encompassed INDOT's building plans pre-Mitch. They basically laid out what needed to be done and said we have no way to pay for it. Their long-range plan actually said that. You'll find that current projects are funded throughout the state, though the northside of indy gets quite a bit of money.

The CC is 10-years out at best. Remember I69 has been talked about for 30+years. Take a look at population growth in Pendleton, NE-Indy, Greenfield, & north/central johnson county. A transportation corridor is questionably needed now. In ten years it will be welcomed. In twenty years it will be praised.

The INDOT "study" can't be compared to the ICC proposal.

Anonymous said...

AI is right--the I-69 expenditure was definitely used as a selling point for Major Moves.

If this governor tries to do a switcheroo and push it into the toll category, that means he's got his eye on some other projects for that portion of MM money.

Nothing against those projects, but the 69 extension is badly needed. And overdue.

So is a 465 alternative. It's a freaking 75 mph speedway now, and adding lanes just increases the danger. It's horrific sometimes...and off/on duty policle cruisers speed right along doing almost nothing. It's out of control.

A commerce connector is probably a good idea. But every generation's major road project is frought with political obstalces.

If Mitch tries to keep up this latest verbal assault on Major Moves, his already-slim chances of re-election will slide further into bolivion. There is news footage of the Gov proclaiming 69 and other projects would be built with MM money.

We're kinda slow sometimes, but we're not stupid.

The Urbanophile said...

I strongly disagree about not adding lanes to I-465. The truth is that the vast bulk of I-465 and I-69 have never been widened. How can you talk about how we can't "keep adding concrete" if we never started adding concrete?

Excepting a section of the west leg that was widened from four to six lanes in the 1960's, the only segments of I-465 that have been widened are the two miles between 71st and 86th St, a bit over a mile from Washington St. to I-70 on the east side, and about five miles from north of the I-70 east interchange to I-69. The section north of the fall creek bridge is basically temporary asphalt lanes and was built as a gap fill until the main projects came on line. The other 43-44 miles of the loop have never been widened. I-69 in Fishers has never been widened as far as I can tell either.

The projects to redo the west leg, the northeast corridor, and US 31 are all on the books. It's just a question of whether INDOT actually builds them or diverts the money to this I-69 extension.

Anonymous said...

Well then let's just make 465 eight lanes in each direction all the way around, put Flanner/Buchanan on speed dial and turn everyone loose.

Even IF we add 465 lanes all around the dial, it's still one of the most dangerous roads I've ever driven on. And law enforcement doesn't seme to be intent on making it safer. I have no idea why...a prolonged enforcement project on 465 would spread the word and slow down that traffic, and stop the insane lane changing that causes accidents.

And, if we had true commuter lanes like most major metro areas, where rush hour traffic could only use the far left lane if there were 3 or more occupants in the car...

Until those things happen, we need an alternate route, and the COmmerce Connector is the only idea I see on the table. If others have different ideas, serve them up.

Sir Hailstone said...

"I-69 in Fishers has never been widened as far as I can tell either."

I don't see any room in there to expand I-69, especially at its worst point the connection to I-465 and 82nd Street interchange.

The Urbanophile said...

Hailstone, the state sees room. The EIS study to redo that interchange and widen I-465 and I-69 has already been completed. The projects to rebuild are in Major Moves and in theory scheduled for construction about 6-7 years from now. The northeast corridor can support 10 lanes on I-465 easily. Just like there are 12 lanes on the section south of Pendleton Pike.

The narrowest section of ROW on I-465 is actually on the west side. But INDOT has found room to widen there as well.

Larry said...

I would make all the Interstates toll roads. It would remove the truck traffic, improve the railroads, allow for rapid transist, and let the user pay.
We need to start landscaping our highways. Trees are the lungs of the Earth and we need to think about reducing global warming.

The Urbanophile said...

Larry, it is against federal law to convert an existing free interstate to a toll road.