ELBERFELD, Ind. (AP) Road crews have completed about a third of earth-moving work on the first — and shortest — section of the Interstate 69 extension, its project engineer said.
Crews with the Indiana Department of Transportation began work in July on the 1.77-mi. (2.8 km) segment that will run between Interstate 64 and Indiana 68 in Gibson County. It will be the first section of the planned 142-mi. (228.5 km) highway that will link Evansville and Indianapolis.
A $25 million contract for the section of road was awarded in the spring, and dirt work has been under way since July 16, Project Engineer Mark Henke told the Evansville Courier & Press.
By Henke’s estimate, it’s about a third completed.
“We’re on schedule right now,” he said. “With the good weather, the dirt work has been moving very well.”
Outside Henke’s office, bulldozers and scrapers are busy carving out the highway’s first section. The outline of a highway with median and ditches on either side is visible as scrapers carry loads of dirt from one area to another, alternately leveling and filling.
Indiana 68 has been closed just west of Indiana 57 until an I-69 overpass can be built.
Henke said plans are to have the dirt work finished this fall so crews can work on those overpasses during the winter.
The 1.77-mi. stretch, scheduled to be complete by July 2, 2010, is part of the highway’s 13-mi. Section 1 that will run to Oakland City and be the first segment built.
Environmentalists oppose the I-69 extension — the full cost of which is expected to range from between $1.73 billion and $1.83 billion — because it will cut across wetlands, woodlands, sensitive cave ecosystems and farmland.
Henke said the road work has been unhampered by protesters after a few early incidents.
The environmental group Roadblock Earth First in June and July attempted to slow the work, first by staging a tree-sitting protest and then by lying across the road to block access.
Authorities arrested 18 people affiliated with the group for trespassing during the early phases of construction.
Henke said contractors have taken precautions with equipment and hired security guards to prevent vandalism, but no problems have occurred.