Final path of I-69 to Indianapolis could be 3 years away

Indiana transportation officials say it could be three years before the state determines the exact route of Interstate 69 from Martinsville to Indianapolis.

The state says no decision can be made until a Tier 2 environmental impact statement is completed. That process is expected to take two to three years, The Herald-Times reported.

A study of the 142-mile interstate expansion from Evansville to Indianapolis in 2004 recommended that the stretch from Martinsville to Indianapolis follow the path of Ind. 37 to I-465. But legislation passed in 2006 upended those plans by including language intended to prevent I-69 from passing through Perry Township in Marion County. Ind. 37 goes through Perry Township.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield was not willing to speculate where the interstate could go if it doesn't follow Ind. 37.

"That's for the analysis to tell us," he said.

The state used money from a 2006 deal to lease the Indiana Toll Road to pay the 67-mile stretch of I-69 that opened in 2012 from near Evansville to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington. Construction is under way on a 27-mile section between Bloomington and Crane that is expected to open by the end of 2015.

Construction on the fifth section of the highway, from Evansville to Martinsville, is expected to ramp up later this fall, with the section open to traffic by the end of 2016. Work will begin in the Bloomington area and continue north to Martinsville, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

The state is financing the Evansville-to-Martinsville section through a public-private partnership. The state will pay $80 million upfront to the private developer to offset the cost of construction. After the road is completed, the state will make annual payments to the developer, which will operate and maintain the road for 35 years. The maximum payment in current dollars is $21.8 million.

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