Bloomington, Ind., could lose federal funds

Not including I-69 in a new transportation plan would jeopardize transit, road funding

October 28, 2011

An updated transportation plan for Bloomington, Ind., is causing contention between state and local officials and would affect both transit and road construction, according to

Buses in Bloomington and on the Indiana University campus could lose funding starting in 2014 if local officials do not include I-69 in their transportation infrastructure plans.

The current transportation plan, called a TIP, ends in June 2013. The Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization's policy committee voted in May to exclude I-69 construction from a plan covering fiscal years 2012-15, citing concerns about how it will be funded, its environmental impact and the location of interchanges.

State officials say they need the organization’s backing to spend federal money on a 1.75-mile intended link with Indiana 37 near Bloomington. Two Republican senators and seven of Indiana's nine congressmen have urged the group change its mind on the 142-mile Indianapolis-to-Evansville highway, which is estimated to clock in at nearly $3 billion to build.

"Completion of the I-69 project will enhance Indiana's interstate network by linking all four corners of the state with Indianapolis," they said in a letter to Mayor Mark Kruzan. "The direct route from Evansville to the state capitol will create a corridor that will encourage private sector investment and help create much-needed jobs for our fellow citizens."

The state highway department has asked the group to reconsider its opposition.

If the group votes against including the highway in its transportation plan, the Indiana Department of Transportation (IDOT) will withhold federal funding not just for local highway projects, but also for local transit systems including Bloomington Transit, Rural Transit and the IU Campus Bus system, starting in 2014, The Herald-Times reported.

Kent McDaniel, who represents the Bloomington Transit board of directors on the policy committee, said the entire county would be affected if the state rejects the local transportation infrastructure plan that covers 2014 and 2015. County transportation services stand to lose nearly $30 million in federal funding for those years.

McDaniel said that would mean no new federal money to replace buses, expand the bus garage or address other future needs.

The panel is scheduled to take up the issue again Nov. 4. 

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