The Indiana Department of Transportation says it should know by the first quarter of next year what the final stretch of Interstate 69 will look like.
INDOT held two public hearings over the past week to get feedback on the proposed details of the project, which is projected to cut drive time from Martinsville to Indianapolis by eleven minutes. But some are worried that convenience could come at a cost to their communities.
Will Section 6 Help Or Hurt Future Development?
Bill Skillman has spent a lot of time poring over the details of an INDOT map.
“As you can see with all the red dots, these are all businesses that are going away,” Skillman says.
Those red dots show potential buildings along the route for Interstate 69 from Martinsville to Indianapolis that will have to be moved to make way for the road. Section 6 will follow existing State Road 37, but additional room is needed to construct interchanges and overpasses and to widen the road to add more lanes.
And that has Skillman worried about more than just his own business.
“When you look at the setbacks, they get into our dealership, they get into a lot of these businesses,” Skillman says. “A lot of these businesses are going to be purchased by the state.”
“I think this is going to be a complete benefit to Martinsville.”
According to INDOT’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement, between 80 and 96 businesses would have to be relocated along the entire Section 6 route under the agency’s preferred alternative. There are 10 planned interchanges off Section 6 and 16 overpasses or underpasses.
Skillman’s Ray Skillman Ford dealership sits on a prime piece of property along 37 in Martinsville. While current plans don’t include relocating his business, several neighboring buildings are covered in red dots.
“If you look at most automotive areas, they seem to be clustered in areas and I think it helps for a draw,” Skillman says. “When you’re just kind of out on an island, it’s harder for people to come to you.”
Skillman is one of several people who voiced his concerns during a public hearing in Martinsville earlier this week.
Martinsville Mayor Shannon Kohl says she’s pleased with the proposal.
“It’s going to provide connectivity for us, shorter times to downtown Indianapolis,” Kohl says. “We are right in between Indianapolis and Bloomington, it will allow us to capitalize on our location.”
Kohl says she’s already received inquiries from businesses outside of the community who are interested in coming to Martinsville because of I-69. And she’s working with existing businesses that might have to relocate to come up with the best solution.
“We’ve made some progress by reaching out to them,” Kohl says. “And business owners to hopefully try to see what their needs are and we’re also updating our comprehensive plan for our city, so this is all perfect timing.”
INDOT predicts the four counties along the Section 6 route will see an additional $1.7 billion in employee wages and a $2.4 billion increase in regional domestic product within 20 years of the completion of I-69.
Funding For Project Still Undetermined
Businesses won’t know what INDOT’s final plan for interchanges along Section 6 is until the first quarter of next year. And, those aren’t the only details that remain up in the air.
“We’re still looking at a funding source to fund the project for construction,” says INDOT Public Involvement Specialist LaMar Holliday. “But, once we get that record of decision from the Federal Highway Administration, that will kind of shed some light on what next steps might be.”
INDOT’s draft environmental impact statement says construction of the final stretch of I-69 could cost $1.5 billion dollars.
The state paid for the other five sections of I-69 in a variety of ways. Money from the Indiana Toll Road lease covered the cost of the first three sections from Evansville to Crane. Indiana’s gas tax paid for the majority of Section Four from Crane to Bloomington. And, Section Five of the project, which is more than a year and a half behind schedule, is being funded through a public-private partnership.
Skillman says construction delays on that project have impacted his business in Martinsville, so he’s hoping the final leg of I-69 will be completed more quickly.
“I’d love to see two shift a day, three shift a day, whatever it is to get the project done and keep businesses in business,” he says.
The state legislature is considering an infrastructure spending bill that INDOT says could impact how it approaches funding for the final stretch of I-69. The agency is accepting public comments on the proposed interchanges and overpasses for Section 6 through May 8.