By Scott Tibbs, November 16, 2006
Whatever you think about the policies implemented by Governor Daniels, there's no doubt the man has some big ideas. Pushing through Daylight Savings Time after decades of debate and leasing the Toll Road to a private company to raise money for road projects around the state are the two biggest accomplishments. The new law requiring a Photo ID to vote was a major step to prevent election fraud.
What Daniels is not is a good politician. Making major changes in a conservative state is going to make people angry, whether those policies are good for the state or not. But he had a unique opportunity, with the GOP controlling both houses of the Legislature and the Governor's Mansion. Neither Governor Bayh nor Governor O'Bannon had that opportunity, with the vise-like grip the Republicans have over the State Senate.
The "Indiana Commerce Connector" is the next "Big Idea". Daniels proposes to make a second half-circle around Marion County to take pressure off I-465, using the revenue from the public/private partnership to finally build I-69. Many people, including supporters of I-69 like me, were very annoyed at the prospect of making I-69 a toll road. Others felt that it was an unfair political decision to make Morgan County exempt from tolls while not exempting Monroe County. Daniels had previously stated that "(I-69 is) either a toll road or no road", but it he has come up with a potential solution.
On paper, the I.C.C. could be a significant economic benefit, connecting several cities with an interstate-quality highway that are not currently connected unless you go to Indianapolis first. Since my family is in northern Indiana, it would benefit me to go directly to Anderson and bypass I-465 depending on how much the toll will be. If I-69 is going to be a "NAFTA Highway" connecting Canada to Mexico through Indiana, it is a good idea to avoid putting that strain on the already-burdened loop around Indianapolis.
As with any major proposal, the I.C.C. will have opponents. Some people are simply opposed to change, but there are serious issues that must be considered as the Legislature considers the project.
One of the first concerns will be eminent domain and how this will affect property owners. While I recognize eminent domain as an "necessary evil", I also am very wary of government taking someone's property. Since the I.C.C. will likely be crossing a lot of existing infrastructure, there will be concerns with how those are handled. Of course, the environmental impact of the proposal must be studied. None of these concerns should be taken lightly.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out now that the Democrats control the Legislature, especially given how leasing the Toll Road impacted the 2006 elections. I am guessing that Democrats will not be thrilled with the idea of helping Governor Daniels add another large accomplishment during the next session, especially since the 2008 campaign will start in earnest by next summer.