According to the results of a new analysis by several scientists released today, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and their consultants, Bernardin-Lochmueller and Associates (BLA), have excluded data on karst features within and near their preferred 3C alignment in Monroe and Greene counties.
Although this information was known to INDOT and BLA, based on their own study, it was withheld from the draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) and the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the proposed I-69 extension.
Karst features (described in more detail below) include caves and sinkholes, and pose extra risks and costs to highway construction. Highway opponents pointed to the exclusion of these geologic features in INDOT's analysis as evidence that the full cost of the proposed new-terrain I-69 route have not been taken into account.
In the spring of 1994 BLA conducted an intensive, on-the-ground study of karst features in the study areas for I-69 that in two cases either straddle or fall entirely within the present corridor of the proposed Alternative 3C. (See: Karst Features In The Bloomington To Evansville Highway. Report Number FHWA-IND-EIS-92-1-D, Project No. HDP 9222 (0001)). This study recorded large numbers of karst features that were evaluated as significant or potentially significant. There is neither reference to this study nor any indications that the data and recommendations that resulted from it were included in either the current FEIS or the preliminary DEIS. Instead, an inappropriate map that shows far fewer karst impacts was used in INDOT's current studies.
In comments submitted to INDOT, BLA and EPA by professional scientists and archaeologists Patrick Munson, Staffan Peterson, Sam Frushour, and Cheryl Munson, INDOT's earlier karst analysis figures have been over-laid with the Alternative 3C Corridor and Working Alignment and FEIS Sinkhole Areas. Both the Corridor and Alignment intersect many of the karst features that were known by INDOT and BLA to exist in 1994 but were excluded from the FEIS. This new analysis is attached and can be found at: ... (go to "FEIS comments").
Karstic features form in carbonate rocks (usually limestone), and surface expressions include sinkholes, swallow holes, karren, caves, solution shafts (pit caves), and springs. Such features are indicators that the subsurface integrity of the bedrock has been compromised by solution along fractures and that, in the case of sinkholes, soil is sapping into the resulting voids. The presence of subsurface conduits, solutions shafts, caves or other voids presents unique construction problems. Even in limestone areas where no obvious surface karstic features currently exist, collapse of soil bridges into voids, due to construction, will compromise fills or structures unless costly remediation is undertaken. Pre-existing sinkholes require costly excavation to bedrock and concrete bridging to prevent future subsistence. (See Pat Munson, et. al., analysis)
Highway construction in karst areas is problematic for several other reasons. Most significantly, contamination from construction and from highway run-off can pollute ground water. Alteration of drainage patterns can cause localized flooding. Also, highway construction through karst areas is significantly more expensive than through non-karst areas. Since karst features are not completely characterized, construction can be delayed and contribute to significant cost overruns.
"The exclusion of this data is a deliberate attempt to mislead and misinform agencies and the public about the costs and impacts of building an interstate highway through the highly sensitive karst areas in Monroe and Greene Counties," said Pat Munson, professional archaeologist and co-author of the study reviewing INDOT's karst analysis.
"We call upon the Federal Highway Administration to withhold the Record Of Decision until this karst information is properly evaluated and the true and complete costs and impacts of the 3C route for I-69 are known," said Thomas Tokarski, CARR president.
INDOT gave citizens and agencies a minimal amount of time to review their massive FEIS document. This may have been done in order to hide critical information. It raises the valid question of what other information was excluded in order to avoid public knowledge of problems with INDOT's preferred 3C route.
Significantly, the US41 and I-70 alternative would have no karst impacts. INDOT could upgrade U.S. 41 more quickly and for far less money than an all-new I-69, and improve the roads between Evansville and Indianapolis. INDOT and Governor Kernan have insisted on an environmentally and economically destructive choice for southwest Indiana. In 2002, 94% of Hoosiers who submitted comments to the Indiana Department of Transportation opposed INDOT's "new-terrain" routes for I-69.
Professional archaeologist, co-author, karst study
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads
Hoosier Environmental Council