The first phase of I-69 is completed,
but uncertainty surrounds the remainder
of the $1.5B project.

EVANSVILLE, IN-Opening years ahead of schedule, and according to public filings, approximately $80 million under budget, the first segment of Interstate 69 was operational at of 6 p.m. ET, Nov. 19. The 67-mile corridor links Evansville with Crane Naval Base in the southwest corner of the state, an area that relied on secondary roads for transport.

“One of the key benefits of the new corridor is that it provides greater connectivity to important areas of the state that have been historically underserved,” noted Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Michael B. Cline in a prepared statement. “I-69 will significantly reduce travel times and provide residents across southwest Indiana with improved access to jobs, education and healthcare.”

The planned future of Interstate 69 is a route connecting Evansville to Indianapolis through Bloomington.  There are grander plans for the road as well – it’s part of a limited access highway eventually planned to go from the Mexican border in Texas to the Canadian border at Port Huron, MI. The next section of the road, which will link Crane and Bloomington, is scheduled to open by late 2014. The entire project has a price tag of approximately $1.5 billion and those who champion the road point to economic development through commercial real estate development and jobs creation.

However, not all is rosy along I-69, either currently or in the future. Local reports point out that opponents question the need for the interstate in the first place, and also question the land-acquisition practices involved in the project.  There are questions as to whether the state overpaid for right-of-way land.  The Indianapolis Star cited documents indicating that the state transportation department offered $7 million for real estate parcels that were appraised at $3.34 million.

Adding to the difficulty is that revenues necessary to complete the stretch between Bloomington to Indianapolis are not available. Though there was close to $4 billion in funds from Major Moves, money obtained from an Indiana Toll Road lease, much of it has been spent or allocated. Added to the problem of resources is the problem of terrain – if the project does proceed, it will be built on some of the most difficult terrain in the state.