- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Evansville Courier & Press. July 20, 2014.

Proposal could be key to I-69 bridges

As I-69 has slowly worked its way down from Canada toward the Gulf of Mexico, the Ohio River has been the elephant in the room.

States all along the corridor have been building, upgrading or relabeling roads to create the border-to-border interstate route. Everyone knew bridges would be needed, but with a projected $1.4 billion price tag, no one knew how to make them come to pass.

So no one talked about it. And no one did anything about it. And the highways north and south of the Ohio continued to grow.

On Wednesday, BridgeLink announced that not only had it been trying to address the bridge issue, but it had a plan to wrestle that elephant to the ground.

BridgeLink, a coalition of I-69 supporters from southern Indiana and western Kentucky, had been studying the original federal route assessment, the current bridge plan and looking at other recently built bridges.

By doing that, the group developed a plan to slash that $1.4 billion bridge cost roughly in half.

The $1.4 billion route would have I-69 swing more than a mile east of the Henderson city limits before tying into the Pennyrile/Breathitt Parkway somewhere south of the Kentucky 425/South Bypass, a mile or two south of Henderson.

The proposed modified route would cross the Ohio slightly downriver of that path, skirt Henderson’s eastern city limits, crossing U.S. 60 just east of the railroad viaduct, then passing through farmland behind Balmoral Acres subdivision before tying into the U.S. 41-Bypass, between the U.S. 60 cloverleaf and Kentucky 351 just north of where it connects with the parkway.

That change would shave three miles off the route and eliminate the need to build interchanges at 351 and the Audubon.

The far more significant change was to the bridge itself - reducing the bridge’s width from three lanes in each direction to two.

The original plan calls for three 12-foot lanes with 14-foot shoulders on either side and a 30-foot median.

The modified proposal is for two 12-foot lanes with 10-foot shoulders and a 15-foot median.

BridgeLink modeled the proposed bridge on a new I-70 span recently built over the Mississippi River at St. Louis. BridgeLink said the I-70 bridge was chosen because models showed it and the I-69 bridge would carry a similar traffic load.

All the changes together are projected to save between $774 million and $900 million.

The significance of what BridgeLink has done cannot be overstated. I-69 has the potential to reshape the Tri-State, especially here on the southern side of the river.

There’s a reason Toyota built its Princeton plant where it did. The plant’s site is virtually where I-64, I-69 and U.S. 41 come together.

That’s no accident. With I-64 stretching from the East to West coasts and I-69 stretching from Canada to the Gulf, the Tri-State is perfectly positioned for massive economic growth as companies look for locations with that kind of distribution access.

Throw in ports along the Ohio, which offer global shipping access, an international trade zone at Evansville Regional Airport and plenty of farm land ripe for development and our region becomes amazingly attractive to industry.

Industry means jobs and money, which in turn will offer the ability for us to improve education, infrastructure and the arts. Once those bridges are built, our community has the potential to grow into one that could rival other Ohio River cities such as Louisville, Cincinnati or Pittsburgh.

I-69 is the key to all that. And the bridges are the key to I-69.

So kudos to BridgeLink for its efforts to make the bridges a reality. In a world of gridlock and partisan politics, it’s refreshing to see a group of leaders working together for a common goal.


Indianapolis Business Journal. July 19, 2014.

Hogsett could spark debate

Joe Hogsett’s July 14 announcement that he’ll step down as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Indiana at the end of the month renewed speculation that he will run for mayor of Indianapolis next year. And to that prospect we can only say, bring it on.

Indianapolis needs a spirited debate - over its crime problem in particular, but also about education and ongoing budget issues.

Since his appointment in 2010, the former Indiana secretary of state and state Democratic Party chief has aggressively put two city-county councilors, Democrat Paul Bateman and Republican Lincoln Plowman, behind bars - the former for defrauding an investor and the latter for bribery. He’s also gone after gun crimes and some of the most repulsive of the pond scum, child pornographers.

Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, hasn’t said whether he will seek a third term, although he had $699,993 in his war chest as of December, the latest reporting period, should he choose to.

Ballard could tout ongoing investments in downtown, his fight for mass transit, and his record of promoting electric vehicles and bicycling. He also has spent tens of millions of dollars on paving and other infrastructure and managed to preserve the city’s top bond ratings.

But shootings continue to be a scourge during his watch, and it’s here where a prosecutor’s perspective could be most valuable. Hogsett might have much to offer.

Voters also would be interested to learn whether Hogsett, unlike Ballard, wants responsibility for Indianapolis Public Schools, and how Hogsett would attract wealthier residents whose income taxes would help replace revenue lost to property tax caps.

Hogsett is prevented by law from running for another office until he vacates his existing post. So he’s unlikely to be forthcoming about his plans for a while. But his likely entry into the race just made local politics more interesting. And the city and surrounding area stand to benefit from a good debate.


The Tribune, Seymour. July 17, 2014

State’s attempt to ward off dangers working

July 1 each year marks the day in Indiana when new laws take effect. But rather than focus on new laws, let’s observe the anniversary of a law that went on the books three years ago this month - the law that barred texting while driving.

Each year since the law was passed, there have been discussions about its impact and whether it’s served much of a purpose. Statistics always show that few violators have been cited, and law enforcement officials decry the difficulty police have proving that violations have actually occurred.

There is no question that the law Hoosier lawmakers adopted would be tough to enforce. And while most people agreed that texting while driving and other cellphone activities behind the wheel of motor vehicles are unsafe practices, it has been equally clear that potential legal remedies are fraught with flaws.

Despite all that, this law, and laws of this kind, are absolutely worth having on the books. If nothing else, the awareness level about the dangers of this type of behavior is raised by significant degrees. Does anyone doubt that at least some people modified their behavior behind the wheel knowing that the potential existed for them to be cited for violating the no-texting-while-driving law?

In a news report published last weekend, an Indiana State Police official estimated that fewer than 400 motorists were ticketed for illegal texting in the first two years of the law, even though state police in 2010 linked more than 1,000 car crashes to cellphone use. Four of those crashes involved fatalities.

Lawmakers will continue to debate the issue. Some now suggest changing the law to make it more effective. Others doubt that strategy would produce the desired results. Rather, they say more education and awareness would be the better approach.

It’s always good to keep an open mind about alternative ways to address serious public safety issues.

The debate will, and should, go on. But we’re convinced the law has already had a positive impact on highway safety. Showing people the consequences of reckless behavior is a powerful deterrent, and emphasizing that it’s also illegal just underscores its importance.

Don’t let meaningless citation statistics cloud the issue. Indiana’s law is making a difference.


Tribune-Star, Terre Haute. July 13, 2014.

Legal marriages should be honored

An eager and probably nervous couple stands before a minister or a judge or a county clerk and exchanges vows, accepting the legal, moral and ethical obligations of a marriage.

The couple has properly obtained a marriage license and has had its application approved by the county office that issues such licenses. By the power vested in the person performing the ceremony, the couple is declared legally married in the eyes of the State of Indiana.

The couple embraces and kisses, and the dearly beloved who are assembled cheer and throw rice or bird seed or blow bubbles. A meal, cake, speeches, dancing and celebration quickly follow.

A few days later, the couple learns its marriage, which was perfectly legal in the eyes of the state when it was performed, is now under further review - and could be for several months or even years.

This is a hypothetical couple, but it has hundreds of real-life Hoosier counterparts, including several in the Wabash Valley. These couples are now not living in the State of Indiana but instead in the State of Limbo. They will remain there until a federal appeals court - or the U.S. Supreme Court - rules on the question of whether an Indiana law banning same-sex marriage is constitutional. U.S. District Judge Richard Young ruled the ban unconstitutional on June 25.

Gov. Mike Pence, in a dismissive manner, has added to the uncertainty for these couples - and the families and friends of all political persuasions who love and support them - by declaring that state agencies that report to his office should act as if couples who were legally married are not married at all.

Pence says he’s doing so to comply with a federal district court ruling that stayed - put on hold - Young’s ruling of unconstitutionality until it can move through the federal appeals court process.

Such a stay is appropriate so the existing law’s constitutionality can be more widely debated in the courts. That is not to make a judgment on the matter at issue. That is the process. One side wins a case. The other side appeals. A higher court hears the appeal and issues a decision - on up the line until the highest court makes a supreme ruling, or declines to hear the case.

What is not appropriate and what is in fact objectionable is for Pence to presume that until proven otherwise, these same-sex couples are not married. Quite to the contrary, those couples should be presumed to be married until proven otherwise. In making his determination, Pence, of course, decided in favor of his long-held bias: that marriage can only be between one man and one woman.

The correct final decision is what Judge Young has stated in his Indiana ruling. Same-sex couples in all states should be allowed to marry, with full legal rights.

But even if the final court decision comes out against same-sex marriage, those Indiana marriages that were performed in the three days that such marriages were legal should forever remain legal and fully recognized as such. And those same-sex, married couples, at the very least, should be welcomed back to the State of Indiana and be able to say goodbye to the State of Limbo.



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