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Gov. Pence Cuts Ribbon Opening Section 4 On I-69
Updated December 10, 2015 7:58 AM | Filed under: Transportation
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(WESTGATE) - Governor Mike Pence cut a ribbon on the northbound lane of Section 4 on Interstate 69 with an Indiana Department of Transportation truck Wednesday.

The Greene County Daily World reports that during the grand opening ceremony at WestGate Conferencing and Training Center, the Governor jokingly said this would be the only time he is allowed to get behind the wheel of an INDOT vehicle.

Just before 1 p.m. Wednesday, traffic followed Pence along the stretch of I-69 that spans from U.S. 231 at Crane to State Road 37 south of Bloomington.

Local officials expressed their excitement at the opening of I-69, including county officials and representatives of Crane.

Greene County Commissioners President Nathan Abrams stressed the extension of I-69 now connecting Bloomington to Evansville brings forth possibilities of economic development and tourist opportunities.

Abrams said the extension will help to bypass all the traffic that is currently traveling State Road 45. Naval Support Activity (NSA) Crane Executive Officer Lt. Cmdr. Pat Wiegleb echoed the importance of ensuring safety.

NSA Crane and the commissions housed within are visited by thousands of large trucks each year -- both delivering items and picking them up -- and the implementation of I-69 will reduce the traffic which is currently traveling along State Road 45 to reach the base.

The ceremony featured guest speakers Brandye Hendrickson with INDOT, Kevin Brinegar with Hoosier Voices, Crane NSWC Capt. JT Elder, Executive Director of Radius Indiana Becky Skillman and Governor Mike Pence.

Capt. Elder started his presentation by noting the nearly 6,000 people that come through the gates of Crane each day are appreciative of the opportunities the opening of I-69 presents.

"We have approximately 3,300 government employees that service Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, supported by 1,400 contractors that come through the gates every single day. One-third of those employees live up in Bloomington and we have just shortened their drive significantly and increased their quality of life significantly," Elder said.

Of the estimated 40,000 visitors that come to NSWC Crane each month, Elder said most of them come from the Indianapolis area. He added the Crane Army Ammunition Activity is visited by roughly 12,000 trucks a year, carrying items in and out of the installation.

The use of Interstate 69 will also increase safety for employees of Crane and those who visit the base, as well as provide access to the distinguished visitors who visit the base to see what is being done.

As Elder neared the end of his portion of the ceremony, he made a special presentation to Governor Pence. Elder explained the wood for the USS Constitution is grown at Crane. The ship is currently being worked on and he had some old parts turned into coins.

"As an aside, one of the links Crane has with the greater Navy is that we provide the White Oak to the USS Constitution and she's in yards getting refit. I have some demiliatarized, disposed of waste wood delivered to me and turned into some personal coins. I've had one sitting on my desk for quite some time now waiting for such a day because I had them all numbered. This is number 69," Elder said as he presented the coin to Pence.

Gov. Pence promised to complete the stretch of road from Evansville to Indianapolis, and hopefully beyond those boundaries as well.

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