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INDOT: Interchange not justifiable

Any momentum gathered last week at the Harrison County Council meeting regarding the Corydon west interchange project was thwarted Monday evening at the board of commissioners meeting when the project was deemed ‘not justifiable’ by an Indiana Department of Transportation representative.
State Rep. Rhonda Rhoads, R-Corydon, read a letter addressed to her from Kathy L. Eaton-McKalip, Seymour District deputy commissioner of INDOT.
Rhoads was asked, via letter, by the board at a previous meeting to support the project and to speak with INDOT officials on the county’s behalf.
Eaton-McKalip said unless INDOT receives information to show a substantive change in the identified critical elements that would allow it to re-evaluate or re-open the interchange issue, until such a time that the existing interchange can be demonstrated as no longer providing satisfactory traffic operational needs, there can be no acceptable justification for constructing an interchange at the proposed location.
Rhoads said the ‘substantive change’ Eaton-McKalip spoke of would be something along the lines of a large Honda plant relocating to Corydon.
Eaton-McKalip also addressed the earmark issue and said they are appropriations, but there’s no actual money sitting in an account for the interchange. Federal earmarks can only be rescinded by their congressman, she said, and they will not expire without an act of Congress.
‘The trigger to start the authorization of such funds is when INDOT makes a request to Federal Highway for these funds,’ the letter read. ‘This usually occurs around eight weeks prior to the contract letting date. Local government units cannot bypass the state to receive federal funds. All federal funding is monitored through INDOT.’
She said INDOT reviewed the project both internally and consulted with Federal Highway Administration prior to making its decision to defund and defer the interchange. The decision was based upon the facts that the interchange is not justifiable. Before considering a reduction of the required three miles interchange spacing in rural areas, INDOT would look into upgrading the existing interchange at S.R. 135 to meet or exceed the necessary capacity level of service needs. Benefits to upgrading the existing interchange over building a new interchange include reduced environmental impacts, the reduction or elimination of the need to secure additional right-of-way and a substantial cost savings, Eaton-McKalip said. This project is also not a priority of INDOT’s, however.
One immediate suggestion, she said, would be to upgrade Quarry Road to help trucks access the Industrial Park and Harrison County Hospital.
The commissioners thanked Rhoads for her quick response and work on the county’s behalf.
After the meeting, Commissioner Chairman James Goldman said the issue isn’t over and county officials will go above Eaton-McKalip to find answers.
Commissioner Carl (Buck) Mathes said he thought the project is dead because the state doesn’t want any part of it.