A recent public hearing in Brownstown concerning the state’s plans to widen Interstate 65 between Walesboro and Seymour drew less than 10 people and even less public comment.
The interstate presently has two travel lanes in each direction along the 14.25-mile stretch between State Road 58 and U.S. 50 but will be expanded to three lanes for northbound and southbound travelers with the upcoming two-and-a-half-year project.
That project, expected to start this summer at Exit 64 and proceed south to Exit 50 at Seymour by 2020, has a budget of $143 million.
The hearing, conducted at Brownstown Town Hall, allowed people to ask questions about the I-65 Southeast Indiana Project.
Leon Pottschmidt, a county councilman from the Seymour area, questioned why the segment between Jonesville and Seymour was selected.
“Why are we starting in the middle?” Pottschmidt asked in reference to the 110-mile section of the interstate that runs between Louisville and downtown Indianapolis.
“Part of the overall goal will be to actually add capacity to Interstate 65 … and Interstate 70 statewide,” project manager Whitney Carlin said. “We have a really large and aggressive overall goal.”
He said there already are several other projects in progress or in various stages of development statewide on heavily traveled corridors on those interstates and others.
State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, questioned the pavement design for the project that will add an extra five years of life to the roadway and create a smoother ride for motorists.
“Is that better quality material or the way they constructed the base?” he asked. “As a steward of taxpayer dollars, I would like to see that method used around the state. Better and cheaper. That’s one of the things that caught my eye.”
Good-quality ingredients and a better base are the main differences, INDOT spokesman Rickie Clark said.
During a similar public hearing in Columbus, State Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, said one question is on his constituents’ minds.
“Will the lanes ever be reduced to one lane in either direction?” the local legislator asked.
“I noted that E&B plans on reducing the construction time by 44 days,” Smith said in reference to E&B Paving Inc. of Anderson, which is designing the project. United Consulting Engineers Inc. of Indianapolis is the project’s lead engineering firm.
“Sometimes, they can improve those times by closing lanes during the evening,” Smith said.
Smith said many of the manufacturers located in the Woodside Industrial Park at the Walesboro-Ogilville Exit 64 interchange operate three shifts around the clock.
“They have to go back and forth to work,” Smith said.
Regarding the possibility of reducing travel to one lane during construction, Smith said, “I don’t think my constituents would support that.”
Clark said he would have to research the answer.
Carlin said the most frequently asked question he has received is where the third lane will be added for both north and southbound traffic.
The answer: In the median, which means no new right-of-way will have to be purchased, Carlin said.
The Indiana Department of Transportation has identified E&B Paving Inc. of Anderson and United Consulting Engineers Inc. of Indianapolis as preferred partners for the I-65 Southeast Indiana Project.
Upon completion of the public comment period, INDOT will make the official selection of a build-design team for the $143 million project between Columbus and Seymour.
The contract is expected to be awarded July 10, which will include a notice to proceed.
Milling and strengthening of outside shoulders near the Walesboro-Ogilville interchange of I-65 currently are scheduled from Oct. 23 through Nov. 3, according to project documents.
That will be immediately followed by median construction through April 3, 2018, the documents state.
The construction schedule also calls for minor work to exit ramps, which is not expected to impede traffic.
For information about the project, visit in.gov/dot/div/contracts/65se/65SE.htm.