An analysis released today reveals that plans for a so-called "mid-continent" extension of I-69 would actually be 84 miles longer than existing Interstate highways. The proposed I-69 between Port Huron, Michigan and Laredo, Texas would be 1,790 miles long while the existing interstate route between these destinations is 1,706 miles long. A map showing the mileage difference is attached.
The analysis, conducted by former Monroe County Surveyor Kevin Enright and released by COUNT US!, a property owners group opposed to a new-terrain I-69, casts serious doubts on the purported benefits of I-69 in Indiana and nationwide.
"All we want is for the truth to be presented to the public," said John Smith, president of COUNT US!. "This study shows how segmenting of the project hides its flaws. We can't afford to ignore the bigger picture."
With last year's release of the Indiana Department of Transportation's I-69 Draft Environmental Impact Statement, COUNT US! asked former Monroe County Surveyor and geographic information systems (GIS) researcher Kevin Enright to evaluate the maps for the entire national I-69 corridor. Enright's GIS map is a digital compilation of the proposed I-69's 32 segments. Each state's department of transportation has published these maps on the Internet. A description of how the analysis was conducted is attached.
"This analysis objectively shows that the proposed new I-69 would be much longer than existing Interstates," said Enright. "As a former elected official, I find it irrational that taxpayers could be railroaded into spending billions on a highway to Mexico when they've already paid for one and it is substantially shorter than the proposed new I-69."
Enright's analysis exactly corroborated the length of the proposed new I-69, also called "Corridor 18," in a 1997 government study. That study, called the "Corridor 18 Special Issues Study" found that the distance for the proposed I-69 between Indianapolis and Laredo, Texas, would be 1,430 miles. Enright's analysis also concluded the distance would be 1,430 miles. This mileage, when combined with the 360 miles of existing I-69 from Port Huron, Michigan to Indianapolis, gives the identical 1,790 miles found in Enright's map.
Critics of the new-terrain I-69 in Indiana pointed out that INDOT's justification for the project relies heavily on the national I-69 project.
One of INDOT's Core Goals for I-69 is to "Facilitate interstate and international movements of freight through the I-69 corridor, in a manner consistent with national I-69 policies." (Draft EIS, p. 2-37). Opponents of a new-terrain I-69 pointed out that it is ironic and hypocritical that INDOT and other highway boosters dismiss the utility of the I-70/US 41 route in Indiana because it would be ten miles longer than the route preferred by Governor O'Bannon.
"How can Indiana's I-69 proponents claim that facilitating traffic is a core reason for building a new-terrain highway when truckers would have to drive an extra 84 miles to get here?" asked Tom Tokarski, president of Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads. "As this map shows, a NAFTA highway already exists through Indiana. Building another hugely expensive Interstate that would roughly parallel that existing Interstate but is significantly longer would be absurd. Such duplication of Interstates would be a senseless waste of transportation dollars."
The groups pointed out that this distance revelation comes at a volatile time in the debate over I-69. Congress will be debating funding for I-69 and other road projects over the coming months as it works to reauthorize the federal transportation bill, TEA-21.
Note: A less scientific analysis of the national I-69 distance issue can be performed by anyone with internet access. First, to view the government's "Corridor 18 Special Issues Study," go to "http://www.i69texas.org/mediacenter/Corridor_Studies/corridor_18.pdf" Go to page 1-7 to see the official mileage of the new I-69 (Corridor 18 ) as 1,430 miles (again corroborating exactly with Enright's GIS analysis). Remember that in this comparison there is no need to count the 360 miles between Indianapolis and Port Huron, Michigan because this portion of I-69 already exists.
Next go to MapQuest.com and retrieve driving directions from Indianapolis to Laredo, Texas. MapQuest will return with a distance of 1,334 miles along existing Interstates. This shows that using existing Interstates is 96 miles shorter than the proposed new I-69. Note that this is essentially downtown-to-downtown and, while not as accurate as a GIS analysis, also proves that existing Interstates are shorter than the proposed new I-69.
John Smith, COUNT US! - 812-327-6142
Kevin Enright GIS Researcher - 812-336-4801
Tom Tokarski Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads - 812-825-9555
Andy Knott Hoosier Environmental Council - 317-685-8800