The state's I-69 consultant - one of Indiana Democrats' biggest campaign contributors - received $28 million in state contracts under the Bayh-O'Bannon-Kernan administrations, according to documents obtained by The Bloomington Alternative under the Freedom of Information Act.

Documents produced by the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) show that Democrats awarded Bernardin Lochmueller & Associates 23 contracts between March 1989 and February 2002. Contract amounts averaged $1.2 million, ranging from $25,000 to more than $9 million.

Slightly less than half the total awarded to Evansville-based Bernardin Lochmueller - 44 percent - involved work on the proposed Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis. The firm received the following contracts totaling $12.4 million for I-69 work:

  • $1.16 million in 1990 from Bayh
  • $2.06 million in 1993 from Bayh
  • $9.18 million in 1999 from O'Bannon
  • The initial I-69 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), created by Bernardin Lochmueller under the 1990 and 1993 contracts, was rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as inadequate. The Draft EIS released earlier this year was funded by the 1999 contract.

    Highway projects are funded by gasoline taxes paid by motorists. State and federal governments collect taxes on each gallon of gasoline purchased and use the money to build and maintain roads and bridges and for other transportation projects. Congress occasionally appropriates additional funds for specific transportation projects.

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    The documents show that INDOT awarded Bernardin Lochmueller 10 contracts totaling $15.9 million - 57 percent of the total - between 1999 and 2001, as the company poured money into the coffers of state Democrats and elected officials sympathetic to the I-69 extension.

    During that time, the company contributed $175,078 to Democrats and Republicans alike. But the lion's share - more than $130,000 - went to Democrats. An analysis of campaign finance reports by the Environmental Law & Policy Center of the Midwest showed that Bernardin Lochmueller and its principals reported the following contribution totals between 1999 and 2001:

  • $55,830 - Indiana Democratic State Central Committee
  • $43,365 - O'Bannon for Indiana
  • $30,200 - Kernan for Indiana
  • $3,000 - Friends of Mayor John Fernandez
  • Company principals who made the contributions include Keith Lochmueller, Vince Bernardin, David Isley and Dean Boerste - www.blainc.com/about/board.htm

    Lt. Gov. Joe Kernan is the party's presumptive choice for governor in 2004. Bloomington Mayor John Fernandez leads the Democratic ticket on this year's ballot as the party's Secretary of State candidate.

    Among the contracts awarded in 1999 was $7.7 million to complete the latest I-69 Draft EIS. That amount grew to $9.18 million.

    The EIS identified the most expensive and environmentally destructive new-terrain routes from Evansville to Bloomington as preferred and rejected the least expensive and least environmentally destructive route from Evansville to Terre Haute via U.S. 41 and on to Indianapolis via I-70.

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    That Bernardin Lochmueller has reaped a bonanza from state contracts over the years is evident from reading the company's story on its Web page. http://www.blainc.com/about/story.html

    Vince Bernardin and Keith Lochmueller started the company in 1980, focusing on planning and environmental analysis, the Web site says. In 1982, they added civil engineering and land surveying.

    The next expansion occurred in 1994, when the traffic engineering division was expanded to include offices in West Lafayette and Frankfort, Ky. That growth followed $3.21 million in I-69 contracts from the Bayh administration in 1990 and 1993.

    In 1996, Bernardin Lochmueller built a new corporate office in Evansville. That expansion preceded $5.87 million in state work awarded in 1997, including a $2.6 million contract for work on the Ind. 36 and 67 intersection. That contract ultimately ballooned to $3.7 million.

    A mere two years later, in 1999, Bernardin Lochmueller remodeled those new offices, adding 8,000 square feet, the Web site says. That was the same year that O'Bannon's INDOT awarded the company the second I-69 EIS contract. That $7.7 million contract ultimately grew to $9.18 million. That same year, Bernardin Lochmueller added branch offices in Indianapolis, Louisville and Charleston, Ill.

    "The firm now employs a staff of over 100," according to its Web site.