In a lengthy letter to the editor that appears in today’s CJ, Tyler Allen and JC Stites — purveyors of 8664 — once again lay out their progressive vision for a new downtown interchange and East End bridge. They also accuse Mayor Abramson, the CJ editorial board and other ORBP supporters of intentionally blocking construction of an East End Bridge in the hopes that the project will run out of money and we’ll be left with only the downtown portions of the project.
Allen and Stites begin to untangle the weird coalition of ORBP supporters, spearheaded by the Downtown Development Coalition — a body appointed by the mayor that is “quasi-governmental,” meaning in one sense that it reaps some gov’t benefits but is immune from open records laws — and abetted by River Fields, an environmental and conservation group that has opposed the East End Bridge. Recently this coalition became a little more official, with the christening of the Build the Bridges Coalition, a somewhat mysterious group of people whose budget and activities — unlike government’s or the federally- and state-funded ORBP — are not open to the public. They have a Frankfort lobbyist whose job is to get the downtown bridge and Spaghetti Junction rebuild done first. The 8664 guys say that looks likely now.
It’s a bizarre scenario, to be sure, but that’s not to say it’s implausible. The strange secrecy, withholding of certain studies and information and general hamfistedness I’ve encountered in two years of reporting this saga have led me to listen to just about any affirmative theory of what the hell’s going on behind the scenes, because nobody official will tell me.
I asked the mayor’s office, via e-mail, for a comment. “It’s a ridiculous claim,” said Chad Carlton, Abramson’s spokesperson. “The mayor supports building two new bridges and a new downtown interchange.”
Finally, here’s an example of what I’m talking about: I spoke with the PR firm that handles ORBP last week about tolling, after Rep. Baron Hill, D-Ind., said he didn’t want tolls used to help fund the project, as they’d have a disproportionate affect on Hoosiers. Hill also said the Record of Decision for the ORBP may have to be reopened with the institution of tolls. That, of course, is what bridges backers have been saying for two years about 8664 — that if we go back now and officially examine 8664, we’ll have to reopen the ROD, which could take a few months or a few years.
I asked about that with regard to tolls. I was told that, because there is no official proposal that includes tolls, there is no way to know. So I asked how they could spread the same claim about 8664 with no official proposal. No answer. In fact, the guy said he’d have to call me back. We agreed on a time, and when he did, he still didn’t have a direct answer — only a statement that didn’t address my concern. (SG)