Bloomington mayor, INDOT step in to get I-69 construction moving again

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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – The already delayed I-69 project between Bloomington and Martinsville is facing another setback after a major subcontractor on the project stopped work due to a lack of payment Monday.

Officials with Bloomington-based Crider & Crider, Inc say more than 100 of their employees have gone without paychecks because the contractor responsible for paying them, Spanish-based Isolux Corsan, has defaulted on $2.3 million worth of payments.

Isolux Corsan is one of the companies contracted by the I-69 Development Group to convert State Road 37 into the new I-69 between Bloomington and Martinsville.

The Indiana Finance Authority (IFA) and INDOT, which entered into a public-private contract with the I-69 Development Group, issued a non-performance-notice against the Development Group on Tuesday.

According to the notice filed by the state, Isolux Corsan has defaulted on about $9 million in payments to subcontractors. Crider & Crider was one of them. The IFA issued previous notices of non-performance, and has the right to hold I-69 Development Partners in default of its contract as early as next week.

Indiana Public Finance Director Dan Huge issued the following statement:

"The state is holding its developer accountable. The state has options available within the terms of the contract, and is fully prepared to exercise those options if necessary. A call to take back the project is certainly premature at this point. I-69 between Bloomington and Martinsville is being built on an aggressive construction schedule, and will be completed at a significant savings to taxpayers. Public-private agreements, on the whole, have saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in building one of the largest highway projects currently in progress in the United States -- and providing resources to deliver quality infrastructure throughout Indiana."

Before this week’s work stoppage, a similar situation in March pushed an October 2016 completion date for the project back to June 2017.

“Section 5 of Interstate 69 construction is in a mess,” said Bloomington Mayor John Hamilton.  “The experiment of public private partnership has failed.”

Hamilton, along with State Representative Matt Pierce held a news conference Wednesday to call on INDOT to take over the project, even if that means getting out of the contract with the I-69 Development Group.

“It hasn’t worked,” Hamilton said.  “We have an eight month delay, we’ve had three failures of payments, we have beautiful weather with nobody working.  The state needs to step in, guarantee the payment or make the payments so that workers can get to work.”

“I have suggested that it’s time for INDOT to reclaim this project, get it in its hands,” Pierce said.  “We know the state is able to pay its contractors.  And we ought to get this project moving.”

Pierce says he sent a letter Friday to Governor Mike Pence’s office to express his concerns and ask for guidance on the project.  As of Wednesday, he says he had received no response.

“It’s clear to me that the only reason why this stretch of I-69 is a public private partnership is because the administration did not want to admit that it would need to borrow money to keep the I-69 project going,” Pierce said.

Drivers who use SR 37 regularly have dealt with delays and bottlenecks since the project started.  Traffic will likely be snarled this weekend when I.U. hosts Ball State for its first home football game of the season.

“Let’s cut the bull, let’s cut the crap, let’s get these people back to work,” said Jackie Yenna, President of the Southern Indiana Regional Labor Council.  “These people have bills to pay.  They can’t pay their bills if they’re not working.”

INDOT Spokesman Will Wingfield would not speculate what action could be taken by the state to resolve the situation and get work started again.  He said that would likely be determined by how the I-69 Development Group responds to the notice of non-performance.  A previous deadline for Isolux Corsan to settle missed payments expires this Friday.

Meantime, heavy machinery is sitting idle along SR 37 with nobody to operate it.

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