Group opposes private toll loop around Indianapolis

| 1/15/2007

Opposition is mounting against a proposal by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels for a private investor to design and build a 75-mile tolled loop around Indianapolis.

About 300 people met last week in Martinsville, IN, according to one of the toll road opponents, Steve Bonney of West Lafayette, IN. More meetings are scheduled to take place later this week.

Bonney was one of the plaintiffs last year who files a lawsuit that challenged the constitutionality of Daniels' "Major Moves" transportation plan, which included the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road to private investors.

Bonney and others are on record on the Web site as being opposed to privatization of roads and the possible sale of the state lottery.

"This is sort of the re-focus of that whole program," Bonney told Land Line. "This governor is still trying to privatize these levels of government - the highways and the lottery."

Daniels has proposed a tolled Indianapolis bypass - dubbed the Indiana Commerce Connector - saying it will help the state avoid tolling on a proposed southwest extension of Interstate 69 to Evansville, IN.

Since the Indiana Commerce Connector would be privately operated, Bonney and others are basing their opposition on the state's possible use of eminent domain to acquire land.

"We do not believe in using eminent domain for private purposes, and this would be eminent domain to build a privatized road," Bonney said. "They want to use government for their own purposes, and we have a problem with that."

In an unrelated opposition movement, the Hoosier Environmental Council and other groups are fighting against the I-69 proposed corridor. The council filed a lawsuit against the state to challenge the proposed I-69 extension from Indianapolis to Evansville, based on environmental concerns.

State officials have called several public meetings about the proposed projects, including another project known as the Illiana Expressway that would connect northern Indiana with Illinois.

The Indiana Department of Transportation has scheduled two meetings this week, both at 7 p.m. One is set for Wednesday, Jan. 17 at the Anderson University's Reardon Auditorium, 1100 E. 5th Street, Anderson, IN. The other meeting is scheduled on Thursday, Jan. 18, at Hancock County Public Library main location, 900 W. McKenzie, Greenfield, IN.

More meetings are planned in the next few weeks, according to InDOT officials.

"Gov. Daniels feels it is important for the administration to visit each community and hear what Hoosiers have to say," InDOT Commissioner Karl Browning stated in a press release. "Our focus will be to listen and learn from our community visits, share details of the proposed transportation initiatives and answer questions."

- By David Tanner, staff writer