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Indiana sues county over I-69 noise ordinance

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The Indiana Department of Transportation is suing the commissioners of a southern Indiana county, saying they have no authority to limit construction of the Interstate 69 extension near Bloomington with an ordinance that restricts overnight noise.

The lawsuit filed in Marion Superior Court in Indianapolis says the Monroe County ordinance limiting noise between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is hindering the project that's behind schedule and where some work goes on overnight to catch up.

Contractors already are bound by noise restrictions under their contracts, INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield told The Indianapolis Star. The ordinance approved June 20 has caused delays and it's difficult to say when new stretches of the freeway near Bloomington might open to traffic, he said.

"Certainly, we won't be able to put out an updated estimate until this matter is resolved," Wingfield said.

The agency's complaint filed Friday says "at least one INDOT contractor has threatened to alter its work schedule and cease work during certain hours in reaction to ... the ordinance."

INDOT alleges the ordinance violates Indiana's Home Rule Act, which prevents a county from imposing burdens on the agency or regulating matters that fall in INDOT's purview. INDOT is asking for a temporary restraining order barring the ordinance. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

A message seeking comment was left for Monroe County attorney Dave Schilling.

Contractors currently are working on the fourth section of the extension that eventually will link Indianapolis and Evansville. The section stretches from Greene County to Bloomington and goes near the homes of some of the project's most strident opponents.

Thomas Tokarski, who has helped file legal challenges to stop the entire I-69 extension, said he and others often called the sheriff to complain about the nighttime noise before the ordinance went into effect. He said INDOT's request for a restraining order was another example of INDOT bullying him and his neighbors.

"It's simply not acceptable," he said. "It's a complete lack of consideration for the lives of people who live out here. You would not believe the noise that goes on at night. All night long when they're working like that. You cannot sleep."

Under the ordinance, violators can be fined up to $2,500 for a first offense or up to $7,500 for additional violations.

INDOT has butted heads with Monroe County officials previously over the extension. The Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization approved a local transportation plan in 2012 that omitted 1.75 miles of the project, threatening federal funding, before later narrowly approving its addition to the local plan.

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