Letter: Stop the land grab; Fix the roads we have

I feel so fortunate to live in a community that, since its earliest days, has brought people together to create a place comprised of small towns in the midst of very productive farmland. This, by necessity, requires large undeveloped acreages to stay productive. Though much has been lost in the past few years, many unsung heroes continue to work for cleaner air and water, more productive soil, and more diverse and thriving forests. These things make all of rural Southern Indiana a good place to grow up in, to live in, and to grow old in.

But despite the love, wisdom, and hard work of some, a plan for plunder still unfolds: the proposed Mid-States Corridor. For the past 30+ years and after four studies, this plan is still threatening the people who live in rural Southern Indiana and the natural world as well. Sadly, the current 7-million-dollar study considered only the statistics from private pro-development groups, and refused to acknowledge the well-thought out and well researched information from many individuals who pointed out the flaws.  

It also refused to look at many of the suggested alternatives, including a “Fix the Roads we Have Alternative.” It was build it or do nothing, and failed to address the genuine needs—both now and into the future—of the community by focusing the study only on saving money for the long distance trucking industry. I question their methods and their results, and can only hope that others will continue to do the same.

INDOT recently announced that a new Ohio River bridge at Henderson Ky which would link I-69 to US 41 making this a primary north/south route, is moving ahead. Since I-69, which was built despite being opposed by nearly 90% of Indiana residents, is now after 30 years, almost complete, does it make sense to build another expensive and destructive parallel north south truck route just 20 miles to the east?

No matter where they are located, do these limited-access highways (which are being fought all over the country) benefit farmers or small towns bypassed along the way? Would the proposed Mid-States Corridor solve any of Jasper or Huntingburg’s perceived traffic issues or make the region a better place to live? Look around and see for yourself.

The answer is a simple NO. Both common sense and history provide lessons to demonstrate that projects like this do not reduce traffic congestion in larger towns, but only make it much worse. In addition, new limited-access highways of any kind do not make a town or the people living in the region any wealthier or happier or have more satisfying lives, but in fact, erode the very fabric of the communities they bypass, even as they ravage the natural world we all depend on.

I think of the native people who were here before us, whose lands were stolen and who were cheated out of their futures by chicanery and lies. In this rapidly changing and unpredictable world is our generation seeing the same kind of land grab? It’s time to stand together and insist that a “Common-Sense Fix the Roads we Have Alternative” is the only choice that can make this community stronger, better, and richer in the things that truly matter.

Jeanne Melchior