Transportation Planning Casebook/I-69
The federal interstate system in the United States has created a lasting social and economic impact on the American landscape. From birth, cities have grown to love and loath the interstate system that became the transportation norm in post-WW II America. However, by the 1990s, the love affair for building new interstate networks had faded and the focus shifted towards maintaining the status quo. Despite this shift in policy, the debate to build one last interstate, Interstate 69, continues today. If fully implemented, Interstate 69 will extend nearly 1,700 miles through a seven state region. There are a number of issues that have arisen with this proposol and we present these issues as a launching point for discussion on future infrastructure investments and their possible consequences.
- November 1967: The first segments of the new I-69/US-27 freeway open for public use in Michigan. The segment of the I-69/US-27 freeway from the Indiana state line northerly to the Branch/Calhoun Co line is certified, and much of the former route of US-27 is turned back to local control on November 1st. The exception is the 3 miles from Fenn Rd northerly to US-12/Chicago St downtown Coldwater, which becomes part of a new BL I-69. Six weeks later, the segment of the I-69/US-27 freeway from the Branch/Calhoun Co line northerly to I-94 at Marshall is certified. Old US-27 remains an unnumbered state highway for several more months. At Marshall, the I-69 designation terminates at I-94, while the US-27 routing turns easterly via I-94 for about 1-1/2 miles back to the original US-27 alignment, then northerly toward Olivet and Charlotte. A brand new BUS US-27 designation is commissioned, beginning at I-69/US-27 on the west side of Marshall (present day Exit 36), and running easterly via Michigan Ave into downtown, then northerly via the former route of US-27 (Kalamazoo Ave & Brewer St) to the junction of I-94 & US-27 north of town at Exit 110. The BL I-94 routing at Marshall is realigned to run westerly from downtown via Michigan Ave (newly co-designated as BUS US-27) to the new I-69/US-27 freeway, then northerly via the freeway to end at I-94. The former routing of BL I-94 northerly from downtown Marshall is redesignated as a part of the new BUS US-27.
- November 1991: Congress passes the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) which designated the extention of Interstate 69 from Indianapolis to the Texas/Mexican border as part of high priority corridor 18 .
- July 16, 2008: Construction begins on Section 1 in Southwest Indiana.
- Summer 2009: Construction of Section 7 is launched in Tennessee
- August 25, 2011: Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez approves a section covering the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway from its interchange with I-24 near Eddyville to its interchange with the Breathitt/Pennyrile Parkway near Nortonville, in Hopkins County that will become part of the I-69 corridor through Kentucky.
National Interstate and Defense Highways Act of 1956
There were several Federal-Aid Acts passed by legislation to help the interstate system become a priority and begin its birthing phase. The first of these Acts was in 1952, when $25 million was authorized for the construction of the interstate highway system. Then in 1954, another Act was authorized by legislation for $175 million annually for the fiscal years 1956 and 1957. The largest and most aggressive Act to help the interstate system get off the ground came within a year of Dwight Eisenhower becoming President of the United States. The famous Act of 1956 authorized $13.5 billion for the development of the interstate highway system. This Act increased the proposed length to 41,000 miles of interstate highway to be planned for and built.
The need for an interstate highway system in the United States came about early in the 1900s around the time of World War I. It was 1919, when army captain at the time Dwight Eisenhower, along with 294 other members of the army, drove the first motorized caravan across the country. The caravan departed from Washington D.C. arriving 62 days later at their destination of Union Square in San Fransico, Califonia. The caravan averaged roughly 5 miles per hour on this journey due to the terrain they faced along the way  . Eisenhower was also inspired for an interstate highway system by his experience during World War II when he noticed the German’s ability to efficiently move forces in a two-front war by the use of the Autobahn .
Policy played a huge role in the development of the interstate highway system in the United States. Planning the interstate highway system began in the late 1930s. The Federal-Aid Act of 1938 called the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) to study the feasibility of a toll financed system of three east-west and three north-south superhighways. This study consisted of a total of about 14,000 miles of national toll road system . The study found that the toll network would not be self-supporting and the proposal died. Instead the BPR’s report advocated a 26,700-mile interregional highway network.
It was then in the 1950s when America was threatened with possible nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union, which spurred the need for a national interstate highway system. It was believed that an interstate highway system would allow citizens with evacuation routes if the need ever came  . It wasn’t long after that Dwight Eisenhower became president of the United States in 1952 that a push for the interstate system began to grow. It was then in 1956 that the Federal Aid to Highway/Interstate Highway Act (FAHA) was signed and the interstate highways would begin to spread across the country in the years to follow. The first stretch of the interstate highway system opened in Topeka, Kansas and was a total length of about eight-miles. The plan for the interstate highway system was to have all 42,000 miles of interstate highway complete within 16 years. The construction and completion of the originally planned 42,000 miles of interstate highway actually took 27 years to complete, with the last link being Interstate 105 in Los Angeles, which was completed in 1993  .
The first decade of the interstate highway construction was the most intense period of road building in history. About half of the proposed interstate highway system was opened by the end of 1966, with the system essentially complete by the 1980s . The rapid growth phase was due in large part to the government support it received when Dwight Eisenhower became President of the United States of America. During his first term in office, within his first year, the FAHA was signed and allotted $13.5 billion for the planning and construction of the interstate highway system.
With the money made available for the construction of the interstate highway system, it was set on the fast track to completion. According to the available data, about 23,500 miles (34,115 km) of the interstate highway system had been completed by the end of 1966. And by 1980, what would be considered the end of the growth phase, roughly 40,250 miles (64,430 km) were finished and opened .
Some of the previous technologies that were brought together in the interstate highway system were taken from existing roads and highways. Greater emphasis was placed on standards for the construction of the interstate highway system, as it was important to have uniformity throughout the system. The standards were developed and adopted by the FHWA . Similar standards are used in the construction of new interstate highway links.
With the growth of the interstate highway system and the increased dominance of the automobile came about urban sprawl. Both private and mass transportation were also dynamically changed due to the interstate highway system. Some of the issues we face even today, many believe, came about as a result of the interstate highway system include issues of economic mobility and growth, problems of sustainability, pollution, congestion and the creation of metropolitan landscapes which lack spatial and cultural harmony . Major shifts in the relationship between the traditionally dominant core cities and the surrounding suburban areas began to evolve. Economies began to shift out from core cities, and population patterns became more focused on suburban areas.
The interstate highway system is designed with the highway arteries directed towards the core of the economic energy and in accordance with the existing population density. The highway network concentrated itself as it came into downtown areas and expanded as it moved outward from the city limits. A large reason why the highway system network focuses toward the intercity downtown area is because when it was originally built, it was to be able to be used as an evacuation route for citizens if there was ever a situation where people needed to be evacuated from the city .
Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991
On December 18, 1991, President Bush signed the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ITSEA 1991) providing authorizations for highways, highway safety, and mass transportation for the next 6 years. Total funding of about $155 billion was appropriated for fiscal years 1992-1997. The statement of policy outlines several important components: "to develop a National Intermodal Transportation System that is economically efficient, environmentally sound, provides the foundation for the Nation to compete in the global economy and will move people and goods in an energy efficient manner"
Among the goals of ITSEA 1991 are:
- A National Highway System (NHS), consisting primarily of existing Interstate routes and a portion of the Primary System, is established to focus Federal resources on roads that are the most important to interstate travel and national defense, roads that connect with other modes of transportation, and are essential for international commerce.
- State and local governments are given more flexibility in determining transportation solutions, whether transit or highways, and the tools of enhanced planning and management systems to guide them in making the best choices.
- New technologies, such as intelligent vehicle highway systems and prototype magnetic levitation systems, are funded to push the Nation forward into thinking of new approaches in providing 21st Century transportation.
- The private sector is tapped as a source for funding transportation improvements. Restrictions on the use of Federal funds for toll roads have been relaxed and private entities may even own such facilities.
- Highway funds are available for activities that enhance the environment, such as wetland banking, mitigation of damage to wildlife habitat, historic sites, activities that contribute to meeting air quality standards, a wide range of bicycle and pedestrian projects, and highway beautification.
Major Change in Transportation Planning, Policy, and Deployment
The transit formula and discretionary programs requirements and program structure remained basically unchanged from previous law, but achieved such objectives as transit and highway funding flexibility and identical matching shares, rail modernization funding by formula, increased use of the trust fund, and an expanded research program. However, a number of programs, including planning and research, began to be funded as percentage takedowns from the total amount of funding provided rather than as separate line items. Reflecting the broader mandates of the transit program, the Urban Mass Transportation Administration, who generally administered these provisions, was renamed the Federal Transit Administration (FTA).
I-69 advocacy begins
Long before the passing of ITSEA, residents of southwestern Indiana had been exploring the construction of an interstate between Indianapolis and Evansville in hopes of spurring economic development in the region . Throughout the mid-1980s, the Southwestern Indiana Highway Coalition (SWIRHC) advocated for a connection to be built and successfully lobbied for a feasibility study to be conducted in hopes of validating that proposition. Unfortunately for the SWIRHC and its supporters in southwestern Indiana, the feasibility study concluded that a highway between the two cities would not be cost-effective . This report, commonly referred to as the "Donohue Study" was forwarded to the Federal Highway Administration and effectively shut out the possibility of an individual interstate being built solely for the purpose of connected the two cities .
But the proponents of getting the two cities connected were not stifled by the Donahue study, instead they opted to get their connection built through a grander road building project, Interstate 69. This pursuit of this project became a reality when an Indiana businessman named David Graham met with a researcher at the Hudson Institute named David Reed . Together, these men drew up a broad proposal to extend interstate 69 from Michigan, through Indiana, and through four other states before terminating in Texas along the Mexico border . With this proposal in hand, David Graham set out to promote the vision and would go on to form the Mid-Continent Highway Coalition .
It is from here that one of the most controversial road proposals in the history of the United States began.
While many maps of the proposed Eisenhower Interstate System from the late 1950s and 1960s depict I-69 running as far north as I-94 at Marshall, the Michigan State Highway Department had other plans in mind. The I-69 interchange with I-94 was constructed as a full cloverleaf-style interchange with collector/distributor ramps that indicated future expansion. In 1968, the northern end of the actual freeway ended almost a mile north of I-94. Expansion would come in 1970 and 1971.
With the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the early 1990s, many border points between Canada, the United States and Mexico became increasingly important points of international trade, with I-69 and I-94 being two Interstates leading directly from Canadian border crossings to major cities in the Midwest. Proponents of extending I-69 southeasterly into Texas use the "NAFTA Highway" concept in their defense of the extension, while opponents cite the lack of a need for such a highway and the environmental concerns. Today, I-69 begins in Michigan and ends in neighboring Indiana. The first 81 miles of I-69 in Michigan is signed as a north-south highway. At Mile 81, I-69 is signed as an east-west highway.
Since the 1940s the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) and its predecessor agencies considered an improved highway between Evansville and Indianapolis. Although the idea wasn’t fully developed the idea continued to receive attention until the early 1990s. Congress selected an Evansville to Indianapolis highway as part of a national high priority transportation corridor, designated as Corridor 18 in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (known as ISTEA). By the late 1990s, Congress further decided that Corridor 18 would be a part of a national Interstate highway project, I-69, which would improve connections between Canada, Mexico and the United States. 
Congress has addressed the location of Corridor 18 in several ways; by designating the corridor itself, by approving funding for a "high-priority segment" of the corridor, and by approving the National Highway System (NHS) map for Indiana. To determine the legal status of Corridor 18, it is necessary to consider all of these expressions of the intentions of Congress.
Section 1105(f) of ISTEA authorized funding for certain "high-priority segments" of the high-priority corridors. One of the high-priority segments listed in this section was the "Bloomington-to-Newberry" section of Corridor 18. Subsequently, the description of this high-priority segment was extended to "Bloomington to Evansville."
In ISTEA, Congress directed the States to recommend routes that should be included on the NHS, a national network of highways that serve as the primary focus for federal transportation investments. The map developed by INDOT, and approved by FHWA, included an Evansville-to-Bloomington-to-Indianapolis route. Congress approved the Indiana NHS map in 1995, and approved a slightly modified version in 1998. The current approved NHS map for Indiana shows an Evansville-to-Bloomington-to-Indianapolis highway, but does not specifically designate this route as Corridor 18 and does not depict this route as an Interstate. 
The FHWA and INDOT interpret the current legal status of Corridor 18 as follows:
Corridor 18 must connect Evansville and Indianapolis, but does not need to connect to Bloomington; the funding authorized for the "high-priority segment" between Evansville and Bloomington can be used for construction of Corridor 18 only if an Evansville-to-Bloomington-to-Indianapolis route is chosen (or the legislation is changed); and the current NHS map for Indiana does not specifically identify a location for Corridor 18.
Gov. Steve Beshear announced federal approval of an agreement by which a 38-mile section of the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway will be designated Interstate 69 by Fall 2011. It is the first segment of what will become an I-69 corridor from Henderson to Fulton, incorporating the Julian Carroll/Purchase Parkway, Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway and a portion of I-24 in addition to the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway. The agreement, which Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez approved on Aug. 25, 2011 covers the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway from its interchange with I-24 near Eddyville to its interchange with the Breathitt/Pennyrile Parkway near Nortonville, in Hopkins County. The agreement outlines improvements the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will undertake to bring sections of the parkway up to interstate standards. It also identifies design features that are less than interstate standards but which the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has determined acceptable.
Once the agreed improvements have been advertised to construction contractors, the designated section of the Ford/Western Kentucky Parkway will be eligible for the distinctive red, white and blue shield signs that identify interstate routes. In addition, about 17 miles of I-24, from Eddyville to the Carroll/Purchase Parkway interchange, will also bear I-69 signs, making the total, initial I-69 designation 55 miles long. 
Approximately four miles of I-69 will be built in and around Union City and Troy; this area is represented by federal site maps as "Sections of Independent Utility - 7" or SIU-7. The super-highway will incept north of Union City on U.S. Highway 21 and will run north to Kentucky and southwest, behind Goodyear and Hampton Inn. It will also continue running east of Troy, intersecting U.S. Highway 5. The interstate will then merge into existing U.S Highway 51, which will be upgraded and converted to I-69, between Troy and Dyersburg.
The project continues from Millington to Dyersburg, Tennessee in Shelby, Tipton, Lauderdale, and Dyer Counties. The proposed project represented on federal site maps as SIU-8 begins at State Route 385 (Paul Barrett Parkway) in Shelby County and extends north to the I-155/US-412/US-51 interchange in Dyer County. The project has two main alternative corridors. Corridor R (Red) extends from the State Route 385 (Paul Barrett Parkway) to the west of Millington, Covington, Ripley and Dyersburg and west of US 51 (SR 3) to I-155 in Dyersburg. Corridor G (Green) extends to the east of US 51 (SR 3) from State Route 385 (Paul Barrett Parkway) to the I-155/US-412/US-51 interchange in Dyersburg. Variations of these corridors with crossovers are being studied. The proposed project will be built to interstate design standards and will consist of a four-lane divided, access controlled facility with interchanges at major crossroads. This proposed project is approximately 65 miles in length.
The final section of the proposed I-69 route, SUI-9, runs from Hernando, Mississippi to Millington, Tennessee passing through Desoto and Marshall Counties in Mississippi and Shelby and Fayette Counties in Tennessee. The Tennessee Department of Transportation is continuing its public involvement process for the Shelby County I-69/I-269 project area.
In Shelby County, I-269, a western, semi-circular subsection of I-69, encompasses former U.S. Highway 385. The future I-269 subsection on the corridor is almost completed between Millington and Collierville. It is expected to be fully constructed by 2013. The I-69 corridor will run west of U.S. Highway 51 and will be broken into three sections. It will then join Interstate 240, also a Future I-69 Corridor, and will run directly through Memphis, merging into Interstate-55 at Hernando, Miss. The route then runs east to Tunica, Miss. This particular section of I-69, running from Hernando to Tunica, is complete. Efforts are currently under way to acquire rights of way on I-240. I-69 construction lettings on I-240 are to begin later this year. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on June 23, 2011 in celebration of beginning construction on one of its five I-269 subsection SIUs.
The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD), in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is conducting an environmental and location study to construct a section of the I–69, known nationally as SIU 15. The project would provide a divided, four-lane, limited access highway on new location between US Highway 171 (US 171) near the Town of Stonewall in DeSoto Parish, and Interstate Highway 20 (I–20) near the Town of Haughton in Bossier Parish, a distance of approximately 35 miles. The project Study Area encompasses portions of Bossier, Caddo, and DeSoto Parishes.
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) plans routes of the interstate in five segments with the help of committees composed of local officials and stakeholders. I-69 is planned to occupy the footprint of existing highways, including U.S. highways 59, 77, 84 and 281, and State Highway 44. TxDOT has not determined specific locations for the Texas Corridor, but the proposed routes would generally parallel interstate routes. As currently envisioned, each corridor will include as many as six lanes for passenger vehicles and up to four lanes for large trucks. Corridors also will have up to six rail lines for high-speed passenger rail between cities, high-speed freight, and conventional commuter and freight transit. Another unique component of each route will be a 61-meter (200-foot)-wide dedicated utility zone for water, oil, and gas pipelines, and transmission lines for electricity, broadband, and other telecommunications services.
The proposed building of an interstate that if completed, would span 1,700 miles across seven states, is bound to draw the interest of both supporters and opponents. The authors of this case study will address the prominent members of both sides in hopes of painting the representative ideals of each movement.
Groups in Support of I-69
Although initially started as an Indiana movement to build an interstate from Evansville to Bloomington, I-69's supporters now span an eight state region . In each state, the politically and monetarily invested champion the development of I-69 with varying degrees of success. In battleground states such as Texas and Indiana, the proverbial wars between groups in favor and those in opposition of I-69 routinely make the news. In states like Kentucky, the opposition movement is less prevalent and support is widely accepted. Despite these differences, supporters in each state tout economic development and safety as the two principal reasons to build I-69.
Mid-Continent Highway Coalition
The Mid-Continent Highway Coalition is comprised of a group of politicians, businessman, and community leaders from seven states, that have lobbied for the completion of the I-69 corridor project . Started in 1993, the Coalition been successful at drumming up support and garnering funding needed to complete I-69. The Mid-Continent Highway Coalition is the most storied and powerful of all the pro I-69 groups. Initially the Coalition's efforts towards earning support was modest. The group's efforts consisted primarily of newsletter distribution and an annual trip by two of its members to Washington D.C.. After nominal success by these means, the Coalition decided it needed to increase its efforts by hiring lobbyists to campaign on behalf of them. Starting in 1995, the vast majority of the Mid-Continent Highway Coalition's annual budget went to paying for the annual salary of its two lobbyists . The use of well paid lobbyists differs greatly from the internet-based efforts of opposition groups. Although the group has suffered some partnership drawbacks, particular with the state of Texas, the group has been the prominent voice in support of the completion of I-69.
Alliance for I-69 Texas
The Alliance for I-69 Texas formed in 1994 and is comprised of cities, counties, port authorities and community leaders that support the I-69 corridor project in Texas . The coalition strongly promotes the conversion of existing Highways 59, 77, 84 and 281, and State Highway 44 to interstate quality. This incremental approach to upgrading to interstate standards is unique for the Texas delegation . The Alliance firmly believes that this conversion will make travel for Texans safer and that they will reap economic benefits from this heavy investment. This investment is projected to cost billions of dollars and the means to provide funding for it have caused rifts throughout Texas. Governor Perry's Trans-Texas Corridor project sought to ease the funding constraints of road building in Texas through the use of public private partnerships. Some members of the Alliance embraced this concept and voiced their support of the Trans-Texas Corridor project. However, many felt that the support for another highway project strayed from the Alliance's primary focus and as a result, withdrew from the coalition . Despite these setbacks, the Alliance for I-69 Texas maintains:
- The I-69 corridor promotes economic development, new jobs and more efficient freight movements between cities and rural towns.
- Converting the current highways to interstate standards will provide safer travel for Texans throughout the corridor.
- Recognizes the funding constraints of the I-69 proposal and encourages innovative financing tools to step up the pace of developing incremental projects.
Groups Against the Construction of I-69
For over two decades, the I-69 corridor proposal has created a substantial opposition force that consists of everyone from farmers to environmentalists. These groups initially operated independently from one another but with the utilization of the internet, the movement expanded throughout the nation. In states that were directly affected by the project, opposition varied. In states like Kentucky and Mississippi, opposition to the proposal was marginal when compared to the states of Indiana and Texas.
Opposition groups utilized a wide range of techniques to promote their beliefs. Grassroots organizations like CARR and Count US!, used education, research, and letter writing as a means to influence change. Other groups, such as Roadblock Earth First! utilized more unconventional means to get their message across. Although united in opposition, the unconventional tactics of Roadblock Earth First! drew criticism from CARR and Count US!.
It is important to note that attempting to summarize the wide dispersal of opposition groups throughout the I-69 corridor is a monumental task. The authors of this case study chose the following opposition groups in hopes of generalizing the common ideologies that characterize the movement.
Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads
The Citizens for Appropriate Rural Roads (CARR) was founded by Thomas and Sandra Tokarski of Standford, Indiana. CARR was the first organized group that universally opposed the construction of the I-69 corridor. The Tokarskis founded the group in the fall of 1990 after learning the proposed interstate project would be built directly through their property despite a federally funded study opposing the future development of the interstate corridor. CARR started small in advocacy, reserving a fire station hall and bringing the I-69 proposal to light for the citizens of Standford. From there, the opposition to I-69 continued to grow at a localized level. Although CARR's opposition to the I-69 proposal was notable on a local scale, as it matured, supporters from across the nation began aiding in the group's cause. In 1995, with the help of an environmental lawyer, CARR successfully proved that the environmental studies conducted by the Indianan Department of Transportation (INDOT) for the I-69 proposal were flawed and violated provisions outlined by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) . This victory in court meant that for I-69 to move forward, INDOT would have to adhere to the provisions outlined by NEPA, which included fully assessing alternatives to the building of the interstate . CARR's success at delaying the building of I-69 caught national attention and the group garnered support from a wide swath of citizens ranging from environmentalists to fiscal conservatives. The group rejects I-69 for the following reasons:
- Environmental impacts on the area's water wells, wetlands, wild-life, and limestone karst landscape.
- Believes I-69 is not appropriately funded and that the fiscal benefits that are associated with the project are grossly over-estimated.
- Advocates maintaining the current infrastructure of roads that adequately serve the region.
Count US! is an acronym for Counties Under New Terrain US I-69. Count US! was founded by John Smith, who formed the group after learning his house would be lost if the corridor proposals for I-69 came to fruition. Count US! worked in unison with CARR to oppose the building of I-69 through southwestern Indiana. The group maintained that the specific interstate route proposals from INDOT were intentionally vague and posed a significant threat to homeowners in the proposed corridor area. Through its newsletters and website, the group maintained the following:
- The Environmental Impact Studies conducted for the I-69 route selection were misleading.
- Simply upgrading IN-41 / I-70 would save money, the environment, and free up funds for maintaining the current road infrastructure.
- Governor Daniel's plan to allow the privatization/tolling of I-69 puts taxpayers at the mercy of private for-profit organizations.
Corridor Watch was established in 2004 as a direct response to the Trans Texas Corridor Project. Corridor Watch's founding members, Linda and David Stall, became active after learning that House Bill 3588 had passed through the Texas State Legislature .. According to the Stalls, advocacy for opposition to HB 3588 was needed because the bill authorized the use of privatized tolling as a means to fund future highway projects, to include I-69. Using the Toronto's 407 as a reference point, the Stalls stated that greed for increased profit margins would negate any benefits gleaned from this privatized funding structure. Corridor Watch is against:
- Private control of public infrastructure, whether direct or indirect.
- The use of transportation and transportation related projects as general revenue generators.
- Conversion of existing free highways into toll ways.
Roadblock Earth First!
Roadblock Earth First! is an offshoot of the anarchist, environmentalist group, "Earth First!". Earth First! (EF!) was founded in 1979 as an environmentalist movement that rejects the human-centric, industrialized world through the use of unconventional protest. EF! rejects the concept of a professional organization with a structured hierarchy. The group simply advocates action in defense of Mother Earth. Unlike other opposition groups, Roadblock EF!'s founder and members are shrouded in secrecy. The group is notoriously secretive and embraces anonymity as a key strength in the organization. Since 2005, Roadblock EF! has vandalized and intimidated a number of organizations associated with the construction of I-69. In fact, the group maintains an online journal, cataloging their exploits.
Although no specific leadership is identified, Roadblock EF! maintains that I-69 is a highway is being built on the foundation of globalized corporate greed. The group believes that:
- I-69 is a NAFTA super highway, that will be utilized to move businesses south to exploit cheap labor in Mexico.
- Majority of route will displace families, destroy archeological sites, and destroy the environment through the building of "new terrain".
- Direct action in the form of civil disobedience, vandalism, and other unconventional tactics are the best means to stop the building of I-69.
The future of the I-69 corridor is currently uncertain. With local and state governments scrabbling to salvage their budgets and a strong drive in Washington to trim the size of the federal government, funding for the corridor is uncertain at best. The absence of a long-term federal surface transportation bill puts the brakes on construction and has left the local partners in a game of wait-and-see. A planning commission representative from Tennessee says “recent and expected upcoming budget cuts in funding for I-69 most certainly pose possible construction delays for developing throughout northwest Tennessee.” The Federal Transportation Funding Bill is expected to cut funding by about 35 percent, which will cut the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s funding for the project by about $281 million. U.S. senators for Tennessee, Bob Corker and Lamar Alexander, both say the federal government is doing as much as it can to fund project efforts. In order to secure more stable funding for the project they have proposed the states involved in the corridor should levy a gasoline tax.
A different strategy has been used by Indiana to fund their portions. Indiana has used, and is continuing to use, proceeds from a commercial highway toll booth in order to fund its portion of I-69 construction. By 2014, Indiana will only have approximately 50 remaining miles left to build from Bloomington to Indianapolis. Despite a better funding situation, local opposition to the corridor is threatening to halt the project.
The Bloomington Metropolitan Planning Organization has removed the two mile stretch of I-69 from their long-range comprehensive plans. A federal delegation of congressional representatives from the state have petitioned the planning commission chair stating that the organization holds “legitimate concerns about the project” but that they should be worked out with INDot and the Federal Highway Administration. Bloomington removed I-69 from their plans due to significant local opposition from community members. Local opposition could lead to a loss all federal transportation dollars slated for the portion of the corridor.
Kentucky has hired a lobbyist in coordination with Indiana to leverage federal funding for a bridge across the Ohio River in order to link the state’s sections of the I-69 corridor. Instead of acquiring new right of way for I-69, Kentucky plans to reconstruct its existing western U.S. Highways at Pennyrile Parkway and Purchase Parkway. Despite this cost saving measure, the retrofitting is still estimated to cost over a billion dollars.
Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas have not made significant progress in completing their local portions of the corridor. In Mississippi, environmental impact studies have been completed for four of their five sections of roadway but local funding is not available to start construction. Arkansas has started minor construction only in very small areas. The state has hired a consultant to investigate “innovative financing” options for the state’s portion. Louisiana has yet to identify where it plans to site its section of the corridor. Texas has made no progress on the project except for putting signs along U.S. highway 59 to notify locals that it is part of the future corridor.
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