UPDATE: Acquisition costs high for last leg of I-69 extension

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The price tag for clearing out homes and businesses for the Interstate 69 extension project's final leg could top the combined cost for the five other sections through southern Indiana.

Indiana Department of Transportation officials estimate that the state might need to acquire as many as 279 homes and 96 businesses for the Martinsville-to-Indianapolis route announced last week as the sixth and final section. But the final number of properties bought is likely to be lower because the final path of the highway hasn't been determined, department spokesman Will Wingfield told The Indianapolis Star.

Officials won't be able to estimate the cost of the land purchases until the final route is selected and land appraisals are complete. The department said it won't know the final route and what land its needs until 2018.

Al Peoples, who lives Greenwood's Glenn's Valley neighborhood near Indiana 37, said he and his neighbors are already on edge about the possibility of losing their homes.

"It's a hundred feet to my back door," said Peoples, 59, who has lived in his three-bedroom home for 20 years. "They're probably gonna want some of that."

Peoples said he received a letter from the state about a year and a half ago, saying surveyors could show up on his property, but they never did. He has delayed fixing his deck and redoing his bathroom because of the uncertainty.

"I don't know what is going on, and neither do any of my neighbors," Peoples said. "There should be someone here (from INDOT) to explain things to us."

Last Tuesday, the Department of Transportation announced that it would rebuild Indiana 37 into the multilane interstate, choosing the route over four others under consideration. The exact path of I-69 could veer from the existing Indiana 37 by 2,000 feet either way, but land will have to be taken to make room for large interchanges, on- and off- ramps and a wider road even if I-69 follows Indiana 37 exactly.

The powers of eminent domain allow the state to take private property for public use.

For the project's first five sections, from Evansville to Martinsville, the state paid $184 million for 348 properties, including 249 homes, 60 businesses, 31 rental properties and eight farms, according to the department.

The final section is expected to cost more than the other sections because it will have more interchanges, underpasses and overpasses.

Planning for the I-69 extension, which was estimated to cost $3 billion, began 17 years ago.

Construction on the last section is expected to take two to seven years, depending on the design and how quickly funding is acquired, and would be set to open between 2022 and 2027.

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