A coalition of environmental groups, businesses, and churches is asking the state to halt the planning process for a highway project during the coronavirus pandemic. The project aims to improve highway connections in southern Indiana.
In a letter, the coalition says the COVID-19 pandemic could make it difficult for the public to participate in planning for the Mid-States Corridor Project.
Tim Maloney, with Hoosier Environmental Council, says some routes would impact state or national forests and karst areas — porous landscapes that help to form caves.
Maloney says in karst areas, there would be nothing to filter the water coming off the road before it reaches underground rivers where species like the endangered Hoosier Cavefish live.
“They’re very sensitive to any changes in that underground water chemistry,” he says.
Project spokesperson Mindy Peterson says engineers have taken the environment into account in all of the proposed routes and continue to do so.
“This is not something where we're just putting lines on a map. These are lines that are being drawn after we take a look at what are the considerations,” she says.
Peterson says the project is in its early stages and will likely undergo many changes. She says the public will have the opportunity to comment throughout the process — including by phone and mail.
Indiana Environmental reporting is supported by the Environmental Resilience Institute, an Indiana University Grand Challenge project developing Indiana-specific projections and informed responses to problems of environmental change.