INDIANAPOLIS - A new study just out is once again raising the price tag for finishing the expansion of Interstate 69, this time by another $100 million.
Opponents of the highway said it's not too late to back off and choose another alternative, but the Indiana Department of Transportation said it's still confident it can get the road built.
The new study said the 21-mile segment connecting Bloomington with Martinsville will cost more than half a billion dollars, well above the previous estimate, but INDOT said that's only a worst-case scenario.
The new, higher estimate is contained in the just-released Environmental Impact Statement.
A higher price tag could be bad news, considering that the state has run out of money to pay for I-69 even at the previous estimate, but INDOT said it isn't worried.
The three southernmost segments now nearing completion and the fourth section south of Bloomington came in well under projections, and INDOT thinks it will happen again.
"We still don't really know the scope of the project at this point," said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield. "The assumptions in the EIS are ones that will not play out in terms of reality. On the first three sections that we're completing right now, the cost has actually been about 25 percent less than what we estimated at this stage."
But opponents said INDOT achieved that by cutting corners on things like pavement thickness, which will force the state to make more repairs and make them sooner.
Bill Boyd of the Marion County Alliance of Neighborhood Associations doesn't want the final section of the road to run through Perry Township.
He said it isn't too late to go back to the alternate plan, upgrading US 41 and Interstate 70 from Evansville to Indianapolis.
"It's unrealistic," said Boyd. "And we don't have any money. You know, we've been out of money for quite some time. So where's that going to come from? And what projects are put in jeopardy or kicked farther down the road because of I-69? It's just a waste of money."
But INDOT believes the money will be there.
"We look at the cost even under this worst-case scenario of I-69 Section Five," said Wingfield. "Still less than one year of our annual budget at INDOT. So we're pretty confident that we'll be able to move forward at a reasonable time frame on Sections Five and Six."
Another critic of I-69, State Senator Brent Waltz, said he isn't surprised by the rising price tag.
Waltz said it's too late to go back to the US 41, I-70 alternative, but he would like to either stop I-69 south of Martinsville or re-route it toward the airport so it wouldn't rip up so much of Perry Township.