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I-69 in high gear in IN while Kentucky needs to get in gear

October 26, 2009

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels recently reiterated his commitment to the Interstate 69 project, and pledged that the section between Evansville and Crane will be completed by the time he leaves office in January 2013.

As the Evansville Courier-Press noted in its Sunday editorial, that would he ahead of schedule, and quite an accomplishment.

From the Courier-Press editorial

Consider that the people of Southwestern Indiana have waited for a modern highway between Evansville and Indianapolis for more than 50 years. They watched as interstate highways were built elsewhere in Indiana.

They listened as officials and opponents told them to be satisfied to take an out-of-the way route through Terre Haute or drive narrow roads heavily traveled by coal trucks.

They watched as opponents kept up the pressure, even as then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon’s administration was planning the highway and as Daniels was creating an innovative plan for funding the first half of the route.

They were told it would take until 2015 to see the first leg completed, but even that might not be possible, considering some rising cost estimates. They were told they might not be around to drive on the highway by the time it is finished.

Well, all of those good citizens of Southwestern Indiana, who have waited patiently all these years, caught a break with Daniels, who is determined to leave office with a significant portion of I-69 in place. Of course, he will have to do the seeming impossible. Samuel Sarvis, the Indiana Department of Transportation’s deputy commissioner for major projects, described it as “a very aggressive goal.”

But, he added with emphasis, it is not a job he would take on if he thought it was unrealistic.

That’s good news for the people of Indiana, and should be motivation for transportation officials in Kentucky, which has little more than a plan for its section of Interstate 69 right now.

Of course, Kentucky took a big step toward figuring out how to fund I-69 this summer when the legislature created the Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority. The new authority will have the power to fund “mega” transportation projects and levy tolls to pay for them.

First on the authority’s agenda is the Ohio River bridges project in Louisville, and the state has already laid out the authority members that will be working on the plan to fund and build those bridges.

This renewed commitment by Gov. Daniels to Interstate 69 and the amped-up timeline for completing Indiana’s portion of it should put more pressure on Kentucky to move ahead with its I-69 plans even while working on the Louisville bridges project.

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