The message on I-69 from Gov. Mitch Daniels seems to be "toll road or no road." For the people I represent, even a cursory look at the idea of a toll road leads to the conclusion that no road would be the better option.
The economic development case for a new terrain I-69 has always been on shaky ground, with great debate about how many new jobs the highway might create. The toll road proposal now moves us from not just questioning whether there is much to be gained from a new terrain I-69 to how much damage will a toll road do to the Bloomington area's economy.
Countless small businesses will be harmed as they are walled off from the traffic that now flows by each day on State Road 37. Will the people who now spontaneously stop at places like Oliver Winery exit at the next interchange, pay the toll, and seek out a frontage road to return to the winery?
An interstate presents similar challenges, but anyone who has been on a toll road knows there is a reason for those toll plazas that allow you to take a break without the hassle of lining up to pay a toll.
The Bloomington city government is working hard to boost cultural tourism and make our community a destination for people who love music and the arts. Will having to pay a toll to get here from Indianapolis help that effort? Will it help the university fill all those seats in the football stadium?
And what about all of those manufacturing plants we are told would flock to rural southwestern Indiana if it only had an interstate? Will corporations really want to locate a factory along a toll road where they have to pay a fee every time a truck enters or exits the plant when they can avoid that cost along I-64, I-65, I-70, the existing I-69 or countless other highways in surrounding states?
The governor's toll road proposal is fundamentally unfair to the thousands of people who now routinely use State Road 37 to commute to work in Indianapolis, drive to the airport or start a journey to various points north. The governor would have them pay everyday to use a road that has already been paid for with our tax dollars, because it is the only way to pay for an I-69 extension that cannot stand on its own.
Throw into the mix the governor's suggestion that the toll road should be turned over to a private company whose over-riding objective will be maximizing its profits, and it's clear the greatest toll will be on our community's economy and its people.
State Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington, represents citizens in the District 61 in the Indiana House of Representatives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.