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Interstate 69 On Schdule And Under Budget

Last updated on Thursday, September 1, 2011

(UNDATED) - Interstate 69 from Evansville to Crane is on time and under budget, says the Indiana Department of Transportation .

With a decision from the Federal Highway Administration expected Friday, contractors may proceed with construction on the Crane to Bloomington corridor, known as Section 4, said Cher Elliott, spokeswoman for INDOT's Vincennes District.

The highway I-69 route roughly parallels Indiana 57 northeast from I-64 to U.S. 50 at Washington, where it bypasses the town to the east and extends north to U.S. 231 and Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center and then to Bloomington.

The federal "record of decision" is necessary to use federal funds on the Section 4 stretch, which will be paid for with state gasoline tax and federal transportation funds, Elliott said. The estimated cost is $384 million.

Three sections between Evansville and Washington are already well on the way to completion and nearly $100 million under budget so far, she said. The entire corridor is paid for with $700 million in funds set aside from Governor Mitch Daniels' deal to lease operation of the Indiana Toll Road to a private operator. Construction on the Evansville to Washington corridor has cost just under $600 million, so far, according to Elliott.

Section 2, which runs roughly from Interstate 64 north to just past Indiana 64 near Oakland City, will be half finished by late November, Section 3, which ends at Crane, is halfway done.

Both sections are expected to open to traffic by December 2012. The fourth section, from Crane to Bloomington, is expected to open to traffic in 2014.

Dry Weather Allowed "Catching Up" On Construction

Elliott Sturgeon, INDOT operations director for the Evansville to Bloomington corridor, said the dry weather in July and August allowed construction crews to catch up from delays caused by a wet spring.

Tom Brummett, project supervisor for a 1,384-foot bridge that spans the White River from Pike to Daviess counties said crews will work in any kind of weather. There were only two days all winter that crews didn't work, he added.

The use of contractors for smaller sections instead of having one primary contractor has helped keep the project on budget, Sturgeon said. In addition, the state allowed contractors to generally decide whether to use asphalt or concrete paving. This created a more competitive bid environment and gave smaller contractors a better chance. Contractors have been competitive because of a lack of construction work in this slow economy.

Bridges To Play Role In I-69 Extension

The entire Evansville to Crane stretch will include about 175 bridges, Sturgeon said. Among them are the bridge over the White River and a 4,400 feet bridge carrying the highway over the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge in Gibson County.

That bridge will use an innovative storm water containment system to prevent runoff from carrying pollutants and winter salt into wetlands beneath the pier-supported bridge. The runoff will instead go into a large containment pond, Sturgeon said.

Bloomington I-69 Segment Still On Hold Pending Resolution

The Indiana Department of Transportation spent about $75 million on 989 right of way acquisitions between Evansville and Crane, including land acquisitions, mineral rights purchases and payments for construction easements on properties, Elliott said. Those include 52 that are still in the condemnation process.

Deputy Commissioner Sam Sarvis, who is INDOT's director of special programs, said state highway officials have and will be contacting the approximately 302 property owners in the Crane to Bloomington section attempting personal meetings with each property owner to explain the project, what is needed and arrange ways for additional contacts.

The state has begun preliminary engineering, survey, archeological studies and geologic sampling in the area, Elliott said. Construction could begin this fall.

Progress on the segment nearest Bloomington remains on hold pending the resolution of a dispute with the Bloomington/Monroe County Metropolitan Planning Organization. The group is responsible, by federal law, for coordinating transportation projects in its area. However, it did not include the I-69 extension in an updated local transportation plan approved in May.

In order to receive federal funds, all road-building projects must be included in the transportation plans of any such organization through which the roads would pass, in addition to regional and state plans.

Indiana Transportation Commissioner Michael Cline has said he will not give the plan the state approval it needs to make it official.

Sarvis said the state can continue planning on the disputed I-69 segment under the authority of the existing transportation plan but construction needs an updated, approved plan. No timeline has been set to complete the last sections of I-69 which follow the route of Indiana 37 from Bloomington to Indianapolis.

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