New Section of I-69 Officially Opens to Southbound Traffic

By: Andrew C. Briscoe

The southbound lane of Interstate 69 between Indiana 68 and Interstate 164 officially opened to traffic last month. Currently only one lane of I-69 is open, and drivers heading north must still use Indiana 57. However, crews have begun construction on I-69 ramps where Indiana 57 turns into I-164 and meets I-64. Over the next several weeks, Southern Indiana Hoosiers who own land along the future path of I-69 will see an influx of appraisers in the area as the Indiana Department of Transportation (“INDOT”) will be required to buy more than 250 parcels of land to build the next portion of the Interstate between Oakland City and the Crane warfare center.

In an attempt to meet Governor Mitch Daniel’s newly announced accelerated schedule, INDOT has hired two design firms to oversee the project, Parsons Brinckerhoff, based in New York City, and United Consulting Engineers of Indianapolis. Both designers have already been on the job site and begun planning. Construction is proceeding under the “design build” method. The Evansville Courier & Press reported on November 8, 2009 that notwithstanding the accelerated schedule, INDOT will strive to finish the project within the original $700 million budget. To accomplish this, INDOT plans to delay the construction of interchanges in south Daviess County and north Pick County, saving an estimated $40 million dollars. In further effort to constrain costs, INDOT has redesigned the Interstates medians and reduced the thickness of the Interstate’s pavement.

Consistent with national trends on publically bid projects (commented on in this blog two weeks ago), the 2009 economic downturn and increased competition has caused lower than anticipated bid prices on the I-69 project. According to the November 8, 2009 Evansville Courier & Press, the bid prices thus far have been 20 percent below the state’s original estimates. Despite the arrival of the federal stimulus funds, INDOT deputy commissioner for special programs, Sam Sarvis, informed the Courier & Press that he expects bid prices to stay low throughout the project. Bids for Section 3 of the I-69 project, which stretches from Washington, Indiana into Southern Greene County, will be let in April 2010. From there, nearly every other month will bring new work on segments of I-69. Given the size of the project, the construction of I-69 will be the largest undertaking of its kind in the United States next year.