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SW Indiana leaders say area must seize I-69 prospects

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The opening of the Interstate 69 extension's first section in southwestern Indiana next week presents economic opportunities that some business and government leaders say the area must seize.

A 67-mile stretch of the new I-69 route is scheduled to open Monday from the Evansville area to near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington. That section is roughly the first half of the planned $3 billion highway linking Evansville and Indianapolis.

Lt. Gov.-elect Sue Ellspermann told a group of business, education, and political officials gathered Monday in Huntingburg that they needed to find ways to slow down the "brain drain" of young adults from the region, The Herald-Times reported.

"This is the opportunity of a lifetime to take full advantage of I-69," said Ellspermann, a Republican from the nearby town of Ferdinand. "It is so important that we move forward quickly."

The interstate opening gives regional leaders an opportunity to focus on steps that could transform the mostly rural area, said Mohammed Khayum, the University of Southern Indiana's business college dean.

Khayum said the leaders needed to go beyond just looking to add new jobs and identify "what we want them to be."

State highway officials expect a 27-mile stretch of I-69 running from the Crane area to just south of Bloomington to open in late 2014. But it's uncertain when the planned route from Bloomington to Indianapolis will be built.

That doesn't discourage some advocates for the highway project.

"To think 67 miles will be open next Monday, it's going to be a banner day for Evansville. Not just Evansville, but for the entire region," Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke told WFIE-TV. "This will be a transformational change for our community."

Mark Bernhard, an associate provost at the University of Southern Indiana, said a group will review suggestions from Monday's meeting and develop goals for regional action.

"We've got an incredible opportunity within this region to make positive change," Bernhard said. "If we sit around and don't take advantage of our opportunity, we're going to fall further behind the innovation curve."

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  • Job Creator
    Because the new terrain road, as built, was deliberately under-engineered, this should keep many highway construction workers employed for(ever?) as they try to keep this thing usable. Unfortunately it will drain the funds we need to maintain the other roads in the state. Thanks, Mitch.
  • Seriously?!
    Brian, please point out ONE city that is removing "their" interstates in favor of hi-speed rail. Good grief
  • i 69
    Why can't you closed minded people see that this interstate is needed. All you think about is negative. This will bring jobs and boost your low economy. But you're probably used to living in the dark ages because you don't know any better. You all been without for so long you can't see the positive in this. Humans has and always will progress just think who we were from beginning of time...then onto Usa became a union and we grew, people that lived in the 1800's never knew we would have paved roads, cell phones, etc. People in the 1920's never knew we would have color tv, satellite etc... Imaging people in 2030 will think what did southern Indiana do without i 69. Growth is our way of life so stop nagging and get one.
  • Exit Real Estate
    Yes, seize on those new opportunities for Mcdonald's and Truck Stops at every exit. Prosperity here we come!
  • Agree It's Ludicrous
    Kevin, I completely agree that it's ludicrous to think that building new interstate is going to combat brain drain. If we wanted to invest in any sort of transportation infrastructure to combat this problem, it obviously should have been high speed rail. That would have had a much bigger impact on the state and its residents than another interstate. Other cities around the country are tearing out their interstates and we are building more...
    • I'm working on it
      First of all, I'm a 6th generation Hoosier who has lived all but one of my 48 years in Indiana. I AM looking into other states to ive in (and will take my college degree with me). Trust me. But my other point is doesn't anyone think its ludicrous that a new interstate will help slow brain drain?
    • then leave Kevin!
      who else is sick of hearing this BS? I saw a story about racist tweets on twitter and a great number of them came from the east and west coast - not many at all (if any) from Indiana. The people here are big hearted, honest, hard working and keep to themselves mostly. people like you and your liberal ilk are what is destroying this country. what a bunch of "open minded" haters you are.
    • Wow Kevin...
      No bias in that posting...
    • LOL
      "Lt. Gov.-elect Sue Ellspermann told a group of business, education, and political officials gathered Monday in Huntingburg that they needed to find ways to slow down the "brain drain" of young adults from the region, The Herald-Times reported." Are you kidding me? Thats the problem with the leadership of this state. A new leg of I-69 is just a more convenient and faster way to get out of this state. You can't stem the brain drain until this state addresses the deep conservatism, fear of change, bigotry and homophobia that run ramapant in this state. Until then, you can build all the shiny new interstates you want. It will help some of us move out of here faster. (yeah, I know, I know......don't let the door hit me on the way out)

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