Local resident Tom Tokarski has been fighting against the continuation of I-69 for 18 years.
It was then he established the group Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads and began campaigning against the highway.
But it was just recently that a plan came to action when the Bloomington City Council voted 8-1 to approve the purchase of a house on Tapp Road.
This in itself is not unusual, as the council buys several properties each year for conversion to affordable homes, but the location is odd because the land lies directly in the path of the proposed I-69 highway expansion.
I-69 would become an eight-lane highway running directly through the west side of Bloomington, just more than a mile from the courthouse square.
The owner of the Tapp Road property could not sell her house because of the uncertainty regarding the highway.
The Indiana Department of Transportation would normally buy the house as a hardship acquisition but had refused to do so until the local government in Bloomington gave approval.
Both the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization and the council have expressed opposition to I-69 and have refused to approve any plans that might endorse expansion.
“I represent people who are skeptical of I-69, who saw this as an endorsement,” said council president Andy Ruff, who described the I-69 project as “nebulous.”
It was at this point that Mayor
Mark Kruzan developed his idea: Bloomington would buy the house instead of INDOT. This would allow the owner to sell without local government approving I-69.
“I asked INDOT if it solved the problem, and they said yes,” Ruff said.
I-69 has long been a contentious issue in Bloomington.
“This highway is just so people from Evansville can come to Bloomington to watch basketball games,” Tokarski said. “It doesn’t make any sense. Indiana is already varicose with highways.”
The highway is being built in sections, with less than 30 miles constructed so far at a cost of $30 million. The estimated expense of the whole project is more than $3 billion.
Tokarski said INDOT is building the highway in sections to create leverage for more funds.
“They will say that unless the highway is completed, the state will be left with miles of unconnected roads,” Tokarski said.
In other words, a road to nowhere.
While the purchase of the Tapp Road property has solved the problem in the short term, INDOT can still force a purchase of the land from the city at a later date.
Councilman Brad Wisler, the only council member to vote against the Tapp Road purchase, said that it was “difficult to justify” the purchase for this reason.
The Tapp Road purchase will be completed in early December.
“My fear is that this is going to happen anyway, and we won’t be ready for it,” Wisler said.
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