EVANSVILLE, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — Governor Eric Holcomb has announced three major infrastructure projects in southern Indiana. The state plans to invest $475 million for what Holcomb’s office calls “transformational” projects that include the construction of Indiana’s approach to the I-69 Ohio River Crossing near Evansville, major improvements to U.S. 231 in Dubois and Martin counties, and an extension of State Road 101 to the Ohio River in the southeastern part of the state.
Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Joe McGuinness says the projects are part of an effort to maintain the state’s recognized business climate.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, McGuinness said in addition to improving safety, the projects will create wide-ranging economic benefits down the road, particularly with the SR 101 project.
“We are looking at …what is that return on investment?” said McGuinness. “Obviously, safety is our No. 1 goal and responsibility, but what is the long-term return on that investment? So, if we’re investing millions of dollars into these projects, where do we see that there’s some long-term growth going to be within our local economy and (we) see some opportunities really within that southeast region of the state.”
The state will invest $75 million for the design and construction of additional travel lanes, passing lanes and intersection improvements at specific locations along a 48-mile stretch of U.S. 231 between I-64 and I-69. The governor’s office says the improvements will “significantly reduce” congestion in the Jasper and Huntingburg areas.
Construction is expected to begin by late 2022.
INDOT also plans to begin designing the state’s approach to the I-69 Ohio River Crossing, a project that has been in the works in partnership with the state of Kentucky since 2016. The state will invest $200 million in the project, which includes an interchange with the existing I-69 and Veterans Memorial Parkway, as well as a new, 1.5-mile portion of I-69 approaching the river.
Construction on the Ohio River Crossing project is slated to begin in 2024.
Additionally, INDOT says it will begin the initially planning for the $200 million extension of SR 101 within the next year. The project will add a 25-mile stretch that connects the existing portion of the highway at U.S. 50 to the Ohio River.
The state says the project will provide a direct connection for Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland counties to both I-71 and I-74, and create a new cross-river route for freight traffic through southeast Indiana.
McGuinness says the investment sends a message to the entire country that Indiana is in good fiscal standing.
“We have the ability to not only maintain our existing infrastructure, but we are willing to – no pun intended – go that extra mile to make that connection into other states or connecting within our communities,” he said. “That truly sends the message that we’re in good fiscal standing. We’re here. We are open for business and we’re ready to move and some of these difficult decisions, and some of them can be expensive decisions, but we thing long-term, these are the best suited projects for our state for today and for tomorrow.”
The commissioner says the planned Mid-States Corridor project, which would run from the Ohio River through Dubois County and connect to I-69, played a factor in the decision to make the announced improvements. The project team is currently working to complete a Tier 1 Draft Environmental Impact Study, which will also identify a preferred route that could involve U.S. 231.
“That helped us identify some of these projects that may have not been on our radar before the Tier 1 began, and so it identified some needs that we need to address today and so that’s why we’re happy to make this announcement because we know long-term, regardless of a bypass or a new road or new corridor, these improvements must be made.”
The governor announced the projects Friday during the Southwest Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Lunch with the Governor” event.