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
- Wednesday's police report CITY REPORT Tuesday 2:01 p.m. - Steve Myers, 604 Sunset Ave., said his strawberry patch was run over. A neighbor was contacted and the situation was resolved. COUNTY REPORT Monday 7:57 p.m. - An employee of Par-T-Pac liquors in Montgomery said two ma
- ND board looks at handbook ND board looks at handbook BY Lindsay Owens Times Herald
- Kelley sworn in as new parks supervisor Mayor Joe Wellman administered the oath of office to Kip Kelley, the city's new parks and recreation supervisor, on Tuesday. Present at the ceremony were Mike Singleton, president of the Washington City Council, and John Baldwin, vice president of th
- Coats rallies Republican faithful at Lincoln Day dinner Indiana Sen. Dan Coats called upon Republicans to get engaged in the upcoming elections. Coats made the comments in front of about 250 people at the annual Lincoln-Reagan Day dinner Tuesday. "There is a lot at stake and everyone needs to be engaged,"
- Sports Briefs Hatchets lose to Boonville BOONVILLE -- The Washington softball team lost in a Big 8 conference game to 3A No. 1 Boonville Monday night 10-0 in six innings. Senior pitcher Ashley Elliot went all six innings for Washington, striking out three. Washi
- Shuttered theater part of push to improve quality of life Shuttered theater part of push to improve quality of life By Mike Grant Times Herald
- New initiative aimed to keep teen drivers safe With three area high schools set to hold proms this weekend, a group of local elected officials and volunteers are working to educate teens on safe driving. The newly-formed group is the Daviess County Child Fatality Review Team. The team comprises o
- Shots fired at officer's homes in Knox County VINCENNES — Early Sunday, the Vincennes Police Department began investigating a report of damage to a marked city police vehicle parked outside the home of an officer. Upon further investigation, it became apparent that the damage was from a gunshot.
- Tuesday's police report CITY REPORT Monday 7:09 a.m. - Randall Dexter, 511 Maxwell Ave., reported a scooter was missing. Sunday 11:05 a.m. - An employee of Chuckle's, 201 N.E. Fifth St., reported a drive-off worth $7.40 in gas. The driver returned 15 minutes later to pay fo
- Barr-Reeve students reap benefits of 'Pennies for Playgrounds' MONTGOMERY -- Last fall, Barr-Reeve students in kindergarten through fifth grade raised money for new playground equipment that would be purchased through a matching grant through Gametime. During the "Pennies for the Playground" campaign, students
- More Local News Headlines