State still uncertain on finishing I-69 extension

State officials are still working out how to pay for finishing the Interstate 69 extension nearly two years after its first sections opened in southwestern Indiana.

Officials also said during an I-69 Regional Summit meeting Tuesday in Bloomington that money hasn't been lined up for a bridge to take the highway across the Ohio River into Kentucky, The Herald-Times reported.

Indiana officials signed a deal in April with a private company that will finance and build the 21-mile stretch of the highway between Bloomington and Martinsville estimated to cost $325 million. That leaves the section from Martinsville to I-465 on the southwest side of Indianapolis as the highway's final step.

"We're still figuring out how to finance Martinsville to Indianapolis," said Karl Browning, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Transportation.

The financing also remains undecided for the Ohio River bridge — estimated to cost at least $800 million — to connect Indiana's portion of I-69 to Kentucky.

"We're trying to identify any possible funding sources, and that could include tolling," Browning said. "But it's way too premature to say how it will be paid for."

Republican U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, whose district includes much of the I-69 route, said he doesn't expect much federal help for the projects without Congress approving a long-term highway bill instead of the short-term extension that was done last year.

"Until the federal government reaches a long-term funding solution, I don't see the situation getting any better," Bucshon said.

The state used money from the Indiana Toll Road lease to pay for building the 67-mile stretch of I-69 that opened in 2012 from near Evansville at I-64 to near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington. Construction is underway on a 27-mile section between Bloomington and Crane that could open late this year.

The Dutch-led private contractor I-69 Development Partners is to build the Bloomington-to-Martinsville section following much of the current Indiana 37 route, with its completion expected in 2016.

Indiana will make an $80 million payment to the private contractor, led by Isolux Infrastructure Netherlands B.V., during construction. When the section is complete, the state will make $21.8 million annual payments for 35 years, though a portion of the payment is subject to inflation.

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