INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana state highway officials significantly overpaid for parcels of land in the Interstate 69 corridor, according to a newspaper investigation.
INDOT said this summer that $162.6 million in state and federal funds were spent on right-of-way purchases for the 94-mi. (151 km) stretch of interstate.
The Indianapolis Star reported Nov. 10 it obtained confidential documents about the appraised values and the Indiana Department of Transportation’s final offers for more than 30 properties. The newspaper found that INDOT offered $7 million for land worth a total of $3.34 million.
INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield wouldn’t comment on specific purchases because the appraisal documents are confidential under state law. But he said the state sometimes has to shell out more than the appraised value to encourage land owners to sell.
“There’s nothing simple about acquiring property for a project such as I-69,” Wingfield said. “It’s complex, and INDOT is working with people who most often don’t want to sell. Sometimes INDOT is criticized for paying too much for property, and often INDOT is criticized for offering too little.”
Aaron Smith, a taxpayer advocate, looked at some of the documents the Star had obtained.
“There are procedures established in state laws for right-of-way land purchases, things that are tried and true that provide a fair value for everybody involved,” he told the newspaper. “It looks like those procedures were at least sometimes not followed.”
Wingfield, though, said, “INDOT followed its typical practice for researching properties and making offers under the federal ‘Uniform Act.’”
According to INDOT’s property acquisition guidelines, buyers are to make offers that are close to fair market value for properties.