Special to the Tribune-Star
When I began working on the I-69 project a little over a year ago, the common refrain I heard was, “Maybe my grandkids will drive on I-69, but it won’t get built it in my lifetime.”
Today, two miles of I-69 are already open to traffic, construction is under way on 30 more miles, and by the end of January, contracts will be finalized for the remaining 35 miles from Evansville to Crane. People who live in Gibson, Daviess and Greene counties can see the highway taking shape, and with it the promise of safer travels and increased economic opportunities.
By 2011, the I-69 project will have created more than 8,000 jobs and contributed $700 million to the state’s economy. The work is ahead of schedule because Indiana’s legislators funded the project through Major Moves and because Gov. Mitch Daniels has empowered INDOT personnel and contractors to get busy after so many years of planning.
And we are busy. We’re working with local and county officials to make sure the road brings maximum benefits to their communities. We’re working with landowners and business owners to ensure that their lives and livelihood are disrupted as little as possible. We’re working with state and federal agencies to evaluate the road’s impact on water quality, geological structures, protected species, historic sites and other cultural assets adjacent to the proposed route. We are encouraging new kinds of competitive bidding among suppliers and contractors to save taxpayer dollars. In 2011 and 2012, the I-69 project will be the largest contiguous new highway corridor project anywhere in the United States.
This is a Herculean effort, but we never lose sight of one of the most important parts of our work: getting public input. To that end, we are currently seeking public input on Section 4 of the road, which will connect U.S. 231 in Greene County with Indiana 37 south of Bloomington, in Monroe County. In July, agencies charged with minimizing impact on the human and natural environments agreed that the plans for this section were solid, and issued the Draft Environmental Statement (DEIS) on the project.
We are asking the public to comment on the DEIS now through Oct. 28 at www.i69indyevn.org. These comments will help designers further refine the road’s details. The formal comment period will be followed by a Final Environmental Impact Statement, then by a Record of Decision from the Federal Highway Administration. When that final federal approval is issued, construction of the next section will begin.
When the 67 new miles of I-69 open in late 2012, it will open our state to new jobs and other opportunities for all Hoosiers. It will provide safer travel for our children heading up to Indiana University or down to the University of Evansville. And by the time our grandkids are driving on I-69, it will seem like just another interstate.
— Samuel Sarvis
for Major Projects