(BLOOMINGTON) - At an informal meeting Tuesday to take comments regarding a permit to construct a bridge over a Clear Creek tributary for the extension of Interstate 69 through Monroe County, a dedicated group of opponents expressed their environmental-impact concerns to a Department of Natural Resources representative.
Jon Blau of the Herald Times reports that the contingent of about 10 area residents, who complained about a lack of widespread notice for the meeting at Bloomington City Hall, expressed fear that building this section of the interstate near a floodway could have adverse effects on the water supply and on wildlife near Leonard Springs Nature Preserve. Instead, they collectively supported an alternative route for extending the interstate from Indianapolis to Evansville using the existing routes of I-70 and U.S. 41.
Sandra Flum, project manager for the 1-69 project with the Indiana Department of Transportation, attended the meeting and said she was optimistic those concerns were addressed in the permit application. Lacey Duncan, the DNR representative who oversaw the meeting, reiterated the meeting was expressly for collecting comments and not to decide the fate of the project or its viability.
"This is your job, to protect (the environment)," resident Bill Boyd said, "not to rubber-stamp projects."
Tom and Sandra Tokarski asked for more studies on the potential of runoff from the highway and how it could affect a "heavily karstic" area filled with caves, sinkholes and vulnerable species such as the Indiana bat. They stood at the podium in front of Duncan, who spent most of the meeting with her eyes and pen to paper.
In the end, Tom Tokarski wondered whether the I-69 project, which is already under construction in Indiana, making its way north from Evansville toward Bloomington as part of a federal plan to connect Canada to Mexico, is financially feasible.
Flum said the bridge portion of the project will be up for bid soon after the permit is approved by the DNR and will be funded by a combination of state and federal dollars.
"The next governor is going to have to decide whether this is going to go forward or not," Tokarski said. "There is no money. They are cutting projects all over the state. They are laying people off. Where's the money? It's unlikely that the project will be completed until a long, long time from now."
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