INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — After years of work, Indiana is weeks away from opening the first half of the Interstate 69 extension that’s slated to eventually run from the state’s southwestern corner to Indianapolis.
The Indiana Department of Transportation said Friday that a 67-mile section of the highway from Evansville to near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center will open Nov. 19. That stretch is roughly the first half of the planned $3 billion, 142-mile highway that was announced in early 2003.
INDOT said the section will connect communities from just northeast of Evansville at Interstate 64 to the U.S. 231 interchange about 20 miles southwest of Bloomington. Construction began in 2008.
The I-69 project has been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by environmentalists and others who supported an alternative proposal to upgrade existing highways.
Opponents contend the highway, two-thirds of which is being built over never-paved areas, will damage sensitive ecosystems and won’t live up to state officials’ claims of quicker travel times and an economic boost for the rural, isolated region.
Gov. Mitch Daniels said Friday in a statement that the state’s 75-year Indiana Toll Road lease to private operators for $3.8 billion helped the state deliver the first half of the highway years ahead of schedule.
“Many people said this interstate expansion wouldn’t happen in their lifetime, but it’s now poised to open and the result will be greater economic opportunity, faster and safer travel, improved connectivity, easier access for leisure travel and more,” Daniels said.
Money from the leasing paid for most of the 67 miles of new highway, which cost $620 million — about $80 million under its construction budget, said INDOT spokesman Will Wingfield. He attributed those savings to good design and the nation’s weak economy, which lowered the highway’s construction costs.
State officials set aside $700 million from the Toll Road proceeds for the I-69 project, but most of that money has been spent. Wingfield said the state hopes to complete the project with revenue from federal and state gasoline taxes and by also exploring “innovative financing” options.
Tim Maloney, executive director of the Hoosier Environmental Council, one of the groups that sued the state over the I-69 extension, said the state agency isn’t including in its tally for the 67-mile segment the costs for land acquisition, relocating utility infrastructure and design and engineering.
With those, Maloney said the cost of the 67-mile stretch actually totals more than $900 million.
“They persist in telling the public that they’re under budget when their own planning documents show what the full cost is. ... It’s misleading the public,” he said.
Over the coming weeks, Wingfield said, crews will finish the section by completing a concrete deck and railing along a 4,400-foot-long bridge through the Patoka River Wildlife Refuge.
Wingfield said the next section — a 27-mile stretch that will run from the Crane area to just south of Bloomington — is scheduled to open in late 2014. It’s projected to cost about $600 million, and will cut across a rugged, wooded area that’s filled with caves, springs and sinkholes. Environmentalists warn the area is highly sensitive and harbors populations of the federally endangered Indiana bat.
Wingfield said it’s uncertain when the final two sections — from Bloomington to Martinsville and Martinsville to Indianapolis — would be complete. Those segments remain in the design and environmental study phase.
- Local News
- Colts' 'monster' now preparing to 'hunt' ANDERSON — There’s a different kind of buzz surrounding the Indianapolis Colts as they prepare to report for training camp today at Anderson University.Expectations have been high inside the locker room since Chuck Pagano arrived in January 2012 and
- Police Reports CITY REPORTS Tuesday 12:30 a.m. - Police were called to investigate the theft of a cell phone at 703 SW Fifth St. 4:14 a.m. - A resident reported someone got into a vehicle at 501 Lincoln St. ransacked it and left the front passenger door open. The o
- Band season starts with music camp While a lot of high school students are finishing up the summer break, the members of the Washington High School Golden Pride Band are back in class and getting ready for the fall, by taking part in music camp. "We're excited," said Washington High S
- B-R teachers union sue Madison, Board Members of the Barr-Reeve Classroom Teachers Association have filed charges of unfair labor practice (ULP) against Superintendent Travis Madison and the three elected members of the school board; Joe Cummings, Galen Graber and Scott Lottes. The docum
- Field day to educate livestock producers WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The Purdue University-sponsored Indiana Beef Integrated Resource Management program will hold a field day to showcase the benefits of bringing water to livestock grazing paddocks.The field day will run 2-6 p.m. Aug. 21 at the M
- North Daviess School Board approves handbook revisions North Daviess Superintendent Robert Bell updated members of the school board Monday night about progress on the corporation buildings. Several projects have been taking place at the elementary and junior high/high school buildings over the summer. Be
- Accident claims life of Camp Illiana director A late Monday morning accident killed the director of Camp Illiana. The Daviess County Sheriff's Department reports that around 10:44 a.m. emergency crews were summoned the Camp Illiana, 727 E. 450 S. in southern Daviess County where David Ira-Mitch
- Tuesday's police report CITY REPORT Monday 6:51 a.m. – Chad Burrus, 10 W. Van Trees St., reported the theft of an iPod from his vehicle the night before. A report was made. 1:58 a.m. – A female caller reported an accident on Southeast Seventh Street. A car hit another park
- James Mulkey OTWELL — James Keith Mulkey, 76, died at 4:30 a.m. Monday at his residence. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at St. John's Lutheran Church, Otwell, with Pastor Catherine Gallager officiating. Burial will be in St. John's Lutheran Cemetery. Vis
- Calling all community leaders Purdue Extension and Daviess County Extension are joining forces to bring Leadership Daviess County to the area beginning in September. The Community Leadership Program will consist of 44 hours of interactive educational opportunities to help individ
- More Local News Headlines