State Rep. DeLaney: I-69 Should've Been Cheaper, Efficient
MARTINSVILLE, Ind.--If you drive the stretch where I-69 is not complete yet, from Bloomington to Martinsville, then you know it's orange barrel and construction-delay city. If you live in that stretch, you're probably praying for the day when the project is finally over and you're driving smooth, non-stop freeway.
The state announced a takeover Friday, saying INDOT will assume control of the project by the end of July, essentially firing the Spanish contractor now in charge of the job.
But, it still won't be done until next year.
"Today's actions will not increase the overall project cost to taxpayers and may provide the State future savings, according to Public Finance Director Dan Huge," read a news release Friday. "The original cost in today's dollars is approximately $590 million under the public-private structure; the new agreements and structure total approximately $560 million dollars."
That means the state could save about $30 million of taxpayer money.
But, the state may could have saved a whole lot more, had INDOT had control of the project to begin with, said state Rep. Ed DeLaney (D-Indianapolis). He contends that idealism is what the state into trouble and caused numerous delays that have pushed the completion date for the project back time and again.
"They had a duty to the public to do this efficiently, cheaply, but not clumsily, and with a competent company and they failed on all those duties and it cost us the chance to have another 100 to 150 million dollars in the bank," said DeLaney.
"If you throw a piece of red meat in front of the Republican Party that has the word 'private' on it, they're going to go for it. Private partnerships are by definition better, in their view. And they've disproven that thesis."
Delaney said he is not against all private-public partnerships. In fact, he said be believes getting into that kind of mindset where one kind of deal works for all situations is the trap that got the state into the mess with I-69. He cited the bridges over the Ohio River as a project where he thinks public-private partnerships worked well.
When asked why the state got into the deal with a private contractor in the first place, Delaney again said ideologues are to blame.
"The Republican Party, the majority, wants two things for their ads. One is to say that we have a triple A credit rating, which we do. And the other's to say that we have no debt."
DeLaney said he believes the consequence to that mindset is that you can't borrow, even if it's wide to do it.
"It's been clear for a year, year and a half easily that vthis wasn't gonna work, that the partner, the Spanish partner, didn't have the capacity to run this project."
But, he believes the state is putting positive spin on a negative situation. DeLaney said the state could've saved a lot more money, but they're telling people that the $30 million that could be saved now is the best scenario.
"It's as if Gov. Holcomb said, there are 20 steps in front of me. I tripped and I only fell down ten. Ain't I great."
DeLaney said he believes there is more to come from the situation.