The first 65 miles of Indiana's Interstate 69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis are expected to open to traffic in November once contractors finish up the project's first leg, state highway officials said.
No specific opening date has been set, but contractors are working toward opening the $3 billion highway's section that will run from Evansville to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center south of Bloomington.
Indiana Department of Transportation project manager Brian Malone said Wednesday that some crews are working six days a week to make sure the section's bridges and interchanges are completed on schedule.
Although the highway hasn't opened yet, it's already gotten some use, The Princeton Daily Clarion reported Thursday.
Last week, a storm in eastern Gibson County downed trees and blocked portions of Indiana 57, prompting state police to travel north on I-69 to Indiana 64 to get to Oakland City. And in mid-July, a plane made an emergency landing on a portion of the highway near Washington.
INDOT officials led reporters Wednesday on a tour of a 10-mile stretch of the interstate through eastern Gibson County from Indiana 68 to the Patoka River.
INDOT spokesman Cher Elliott said a bridge in that section will be about 200 feet longer than the Golden Gate Bridge's 4,200-foot main span. She said the long bridge span is needed to protect the Patoka Wildlife Refuge.
Malone said one section of the highway north of Indiana 64 is near a former mine pit, and that site prep work there included dropping 17 tons of weight from 60 feet, seven times, to compact the soil.
Elliott said INDOT is inviting communities to plan a potential celebration in mid-October along the interstate, entertaining ideas ranging from festivals to bike rides or camp-outs.
In all, the entire project from Evansville to Indianapolis will cover 142 miles.