News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 19, 2009

NEW: Daniels says cost of I-69 extension can be cut


EVANSVILLE — A new $3.1 billion price tag for the extension of Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Evansville can be reduced by ignoring some federal rules, Gov. Mitch Daniels said.

Speaking Monday to a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce of Southwest Indiana in Evansville, Daniels said the Indiana Department of Transportation estimate released last week could be trimmed by bypassing some federal highway construction standards.

“Throw away the rule book to the extent the feds will let you do it,” Daniels said he told INDOT officials.

INDOT said inflation and other costs have caused the price of the 142-mile extension to climb to $3.1 billion from an original estimate of $1.7 billion when they lobbied the federal government for approval in 2003.

Daniels said the state could save money by making the median narrower or using a thinner layer of pavement for the initial construction, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The costs of materials has remained low and bids for construction projects have come in below expectations, the governor said.

“And in a tough economy, bidders are competing for this business,” he said. “The taxpayers are getting the benefit from that.”

When they announced the higher price tag last week, state highway officials cautioned that price estimates likely will change as INDOT tries to reduce costs.

Opponents say the higher costs are one reason why the highway should be built along an existing route rather than carving a new route through southwestern Indiana.