Next I-69 section to cost less than expected

A section of the Interstate 69 extension from just south of Bloomington to Martinsville is moving forward at a lower cost after Indiana received approval to use federal funds for the stretch, a state highway spokesman said Monday.

The Federal Highway Administration approval granted on Friday will allow funds from the federal agency to be used to complete the design and acquire land for the approximately 21-mile Section 5, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said.

State officials say revised plans for a section mean fewer homes and businesses would be torn down. And the cost is at least $100 million less than an estimate released last year. The new estimate of $394 million released Monday is within several million of previous projections.

The section will upgrade the current Indiana 37 — a four-lane, divided highway — to interstate standards. Land must be acquired for the seven interchanges and five overpasses in the section, Wingfield said.

The new plan cuts the number of homes being bought from 150 down to 119. The number of businesses affected will go from 32 down to 17.

Under an initiative announced by Gov. Mike Pence in May, a team of contractors selected to design and build the upgrade will sign a public-private deal under which it will arrange its own financing. Indiana would make payments for 35 years after its completion as the team maintains and operates the stretch. It will not be a toll road.

INDOT expects to select the winning team from among four candidates next February, with construction beginning months later, Wingfield said.

The contractors for the extension's first 94 miles from Evansville to south of Bloomington received state funding for their work.

The first three sections opened for traffic in November. Construction is continuing on the 27-mile Section 4 between Crane and Bloomington, which is expected to open to traffic in phases during late 2014 and early 2015.

When complete, the extension will stretch 142 miles from Evansville to Indianapolis.

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