EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) Work on the next phase of Interstate 69, a 27-mi. (43 km) stretch between Bloomington and Crane, Ind., is in full swing — but that doesn’t mean any asphalt is being laid.
Instead, workers are doing “dirt work’’ — the kind of dirty work necessary when you build what the Indiana Department of Transportation calls a new-terrain interstate.
“You’re moving the dirt that’s in its place and getting it to a specific elevation, so you may have to cut down hills or fill in valley areas,’’ said INDOT spokeswoman Cher Elliott. “So that way, when they pour the concrete for the roadway, it is at a certain elevation. It’s the moving of the dirt to smooth it out. We don’t just plane it off. We have a lot of compacting work that has to take place so that [the dirt] is established and solid before we put the road on top of it.
“We won’t see actual mainline pavement being poured until sometime next year,’’ she told the Evansville Couirer & Press.
This section of I-69 will be completed late next year or early 2015, with weather conditions being the determining factor.
In November, INDOT announced plans to rename the nearly 21 mi. (34 km) of the existing Interstate 164 in Vanderburgh and Warrick counties Interstate 69 in about a year. With final approval from the Federal Highway Administration, new signage will be installed in the fall of 2014.
A 142-mi. (228 km) I-69 corridor that will run from Evansville to Indianapolis is divided into six independent sections, the first three of which opened in November 2012. Sixty-seven new mi. (108 km) of I-69 opened between Interstate 64 and Crane on Nov. 19, 2012.
Supporters call I-69 a key ingredient to any formula for enhancing southwestern Indiana’s economic vitality and a way to improve access to jobs, education and health care for that region.
I-69 now ends at U.S. 231 in the southwest portion of Greene County. It then traverses east to State Road 37 on the edge of Bloomington.
U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, who represents Indiana’s 8th District, said he is in close touch with INDOT and Gov. Mike Pence’s office about I-69’s overall progress. Bucshon and several other House members in September launched the bipartisan Interstate 69 Congressional Caucus to tout the strategic importance of I-69 as a freight corridor.
Bucshon said he drove past the section between Crane and Bloomington on Nov. 26, reporting no apparent problems with the work ongoing.
The second-term congressman holds out hope that he can get federal money for I-69 construction next year.
“One thing that will be important is that, at the federal level we’re going to be working on a new highway bill again, starting in January,’’ Bucshon said. “Hopefully, we’ll make sure we continue to secure Indiana’s share of the federal highway money that some wish could be used for I-69.’’
The projected cost of I-69’s Crane-to-Bloomington section: $470.5 million, which is to be paid in seven contracts to a prime contractor and subcontractors who perform such tasks as marking pavement, installing signs, doing grass seed and sod or paving
“Things are moving very well. We haven’t run into many issues or concerns. Work through that corridor has been the same as what we saw in sections one through three, where we’ve had to close some county roads while construction was taking place,’’ Elliott said.