Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Daniels Forcing Hoosier Taxpayers To Foot Bill For Kentucky "Big Dig"

Aaron's Renn's ongoing series disclosing the outragous one-sided terms Gov. Mitch Daniels negotiated with the state of Kentucky that has Indiana taxpayers on the hook for the vast majority of costs to build two new bridges across the Ohio River at Louisville explains how a large part of the expenses being picked up by Indiana involve the construction of a tunnel through an upscale neighborhood being built for the approach on the Kentucky side. The Kentucky approach for the East End bridge will cost a staggering $795 million compared to the $558 million cost for the entire bridge and the Indiana approach. "This is a staggering $10,000 per foot [for the Kentucky approach]," Renn writes. Renn's concerns are based on the fact that Indiana is assuming responsibility for the entire project, including a "Big Dig" project on the Kentucky side that is similar to the infamous tunneling project that plagued Boston with huge cost overruns. As he explains:

Call me crazy, but at $795 million for 1.4 miles of road, I think there just might be a little gold plating in this segment. That’s more money than it cost Indiana to build a brand new 10 mile freeway bypass around Kokomo. Heck, it’s more than Indiana is spending to convert 12 miles of US 31 to a freeway through Carmel and Westfield, right in the middle of some of the state’s most expensive real estate. Indiana would never build a road this crazy expensive for actual Hoosiers. I can only imagine the look on Mitch Daniels’ face if a Hoosier town asked him for something like this.
In any event, Indiana has agreed to pay for and construct this tunnel and very overpriced piece of Kentucky roadway. Which raises additional questions about the project. For example, does INDOT have the expertise to build a such a tunnel? I am not aware of a single genuine highway tunnel anywhere in the state of Indiana. I don’t believe INDOT has ever built one before, much less a complicated tunnel adjacent to a river with obvious potential for ground water problems. Kentucky may not be expert at tunneling either, but they’ve built at least two, including one in Louisville itself on I-64.
As anyone who’s read anything about the Big Dig should know, tunneling is frequently plagued with construction problems and cost overruns. After construction the tunnels leaked, and part of one tunnel collapsed on top of a car, killing someone. While this isn’t the Big Dig exactly, similar risks apply. Gov. Daniels can ask Mitt Romney for some tips on the risks associated with tunneling.
Renn's analysis of this potential boondoggle is must reading. He wonders just how an Indiana governor has constitutional authority to construct a road project within another state's borders. It's a good question, but as we've seen before, Gov. Daniels won't let the law get in his way when he makes up his mind to do something. It continues to amaze all just how the Indiana media grovels at Gov. Daniels' feet and ignores his many transgressions. Last night, Gov. Mitch Daniels boasted of his administration's $1.2 billion investment in road and bridge projects during 2012 alone. On his badly-negotiated bridge deal with Kentucky, he described it as "cement[ing] Indiana's place at the forefront of the public-private partnership agreement." One could only wonder which fat cat contributors of Daniels will make off at the expense of Indiana taxpayers to build Kentucky's largest road project. Maybe Kentucky should consider making him an honorary governor for all of his generosity to the Blue Grass state.

1 comment:

Marycatherine Barton said...

Yes, Daniels is making a fool out of Indiana taxpayers.