IU students, community speak out against I-69 construction

INPIRG: highway would destroy 1,400 acres of forest land

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Apr. 21, 2005 


New terrain Interstate 69 was met with even more hostility Wednesday night in the Indiana Memorial Union.

Members of Indiana Student Public Interest Research Group, IU students and other organizations against the construction of I-69 gathered last night in the Walnut Room of the Indiana Memorial Union to discuss plans to stop I-69's construction on new terrain.

The Indiana Department of Transportation designated I-69 Route 3C in 2003 and specified plans for a highway that would connect Indianapolis to Evansville in accordance with the North American Free Trade Act.

The event aimed to educate IU students and help them think more seriously about the environment. According to INPIRG, 1,400 acres of forest will be destroyed if the plans were to continue.

"Not enough people know about the I-69 proposal," senior INPIRG member Jessica Vollmer said. Vollmer said she was shocked and outraged that the proposal was still being considered after she researched the plans for a journalism class.

"I can't believe anyone would support something like this," Vollmer continued. She went on to mention how small-town staples, similar to Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington, could cease to exist in the areas affected by the construction.

Vollmer argued that the increase in economic opportunities for Hoosiers with the addition of I-69 is too minute to have any kind of effect. Vollmer said I-69 would provide construction jobs for 14 years but would raise the total number of jobs in affected areas by only 0.2 percent.

INPIRG and other groups opposing the construction of the interstate extension, including Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and the Bloomington Circus Collective, support alternatives like revamping Interstate 70 and US Route 41.

The alternative plan will cost about $800 million as opposed to the $1.7 billion of tax payers' money spent on I-69, according to CARR statistics. Vollmer also said government officials hardly have considered this plan, and CARR member Sandra Tokarski thinks she knows why.

"I believe in the power of the people," said Tokarski, a Monroe county resident, "and our government is so far in the pocket of big money that our democratic voice has become lost." In 2002 CARR presented a petition bearing 138,000 signatures in opposition to I-69 construction to former Gov. Joe Kernan.

Sandra Tokarski's husband Tom, a fellow CARR member, also weighed in on the issue.

"We're trying to make sense out of this issue," he said, "and it's us against the big and powerful."

Tom and Sandra Tokarski have actively opposed the construction of interstates in Indiana since August 1990, when they helped found CARR. The Tokarskis own 35 acres of land along the proposed route that would be slashed through if I-69 were built.

Although the proposal hasn't reached a point at which compensation must offered to affected residents, Tom Tokarski said no amount of money would be enough. Co-founder of CARR Brian Garvey agrees.

"I love my land, I love my farm, and I love my farm community," Garvey said.

INPIRG member Kate Mobley has been working against the I-69 initiative for close to a year. She grew up in Terre Haute and is used to Indiana's interstate system, but she said she values the tranquility and coziness of Bloomington and its surrounding communities.

"I want to be able to bring my kids back in 20 years and have everything be the same," Mobley said. "I don't want them to see a community that has been hurt by something like an unnecessary interstate system."

-- Contact Staff Writer Pat Giese at


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