Corridor opposition: ‘Think of us’March 12, 2020
By ALLEN LAMAN
DUFF — As the sun set along the sprawling Duff countryside, Sheila Wendholt looked to the picturesque horizon.
She knows that rural Dubois County could change significantly if the proposed Mid-States Corridor is given the green light to surface through the rolling hills and waves of crops that many call home.
Five options exist for the four-lane, limited-access highway. But no matter which one is selected, the land it rests on would come at a cost.
“I don’t want the road to go through my farm or anybody else’s farm,” said Alan Small, who has a grain farm south of Duff. “That’s basically what it amounts to. I’m not trying to promote it on this side of the county or the other side of the county, I just don’t want it to go through any place.”
Small and other organizers hosted an opposition gathering Wednesday at the Duff Conservation Club, and about 65 residents who could be negatively impacted by the corridor congregated to voice their concerns and lay the groundwork for a plan to block the road.
The Mid-States Corridor would track north from Owensboro, Kentucky, through Dubois County, and connect to I-69. The Lochmueller Group has been studying route options and different road types, and they have been narrowed down to five route options: two running west of U.S. 231, one running somewhat parallel to the state road in Dubois County and two running east of the road.
Those possibilities will be narrowed down to one proposed option this fall, which will be studied to determine a single route, possibly by next summer.
Attendees at Wednesday’s event spoke informally about their family farms, some of which stand square inside the 2-mile-wide bands on maps that highlight preliminary routes the road could follow. They questioned the need for a new highway, and they asked outsiders to consider their livelihoods.
“Think of us,” said Elizabeth Elshoff, who lives about a mile and a half west of the Huntingburg Airport. “The little people. ‘Oh, it’s not gonna hurt you, the little people. Just buy or build somewhere else.’ Well, when you get to be retirement age, you don’t want to have to start over again.”
Depending on if it is selected and how it is narrowed, one of the routes could come through her living room. Like other attendees, her family has owned the land her home sits on for years. Elshoff’s ancestors purchased it from the government in 1852.
“It means a lot because I was born there,” she said. “My father was born there. My grandfather, and my great-grandfather, and my great-great-grandfather moved there. So, there’s history. There’s just a lot of emotion tied to the farm.”
Speakers said they would not stop fighting against the road even if their homes were not in the eventual selected path. They don’t want to see anyone lose their land.
According to a story that ran in The Herald last week, Dubois Strong, the county’s economic development organization, supports having a road, though it does not have a route preference.
Organization head Ed Cole said that “from an economic development standpoint, connectivity to highways and the ability to transport freight and transport people efficiently is huge.” Local governments and private donors contributed a total of $7 million for the corridor project’s ongoing environmental study.
Small and other attendees urged those in the crowd to voice their opinions. A screening report questionnaire can be filled out through March 23 on the midstatescorridor.com website, and a local project office is set up at Vincennes University Jasper on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A petition opposing the corridor filled with signatures Wednesday evening. The group hopes to organize a rally at the Dubois County Courthouse, pending approval from the Dubois County Commissioners. Talks were also had of door-to-door petitioning to spread the word and accumulate more supporters.
Wendholt encouraged those in the packed room to share heartfelt stories in the form of letters to the editor. By doing this, she said the residents who are at risk could show their dilemma to those who are not in danger of losing their property, driving them to care more about the situation.
“I know some people say, ‘We can’t stop it,’” Wendholt said of the corridor. “I [say], ‘It’s a sad thing if we don’t at least try to stop it.’”
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