Editorial: New I-69 route benefits economy

The Tribune

After years of work, Indiana is ready to open the first half of the Interstate 69 extension that’s slated to eventually run from the state’s southwestern corner to Indianapolis.

The Indiana Department of Transportation said that a 67-mile section of the highway from Evansville to near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center will open today. That stretch is roughly the first half of the planned 142-mile stretch of highway, which was announced in early 2003.

Seymour and Jackson County and our location along Interstate 65 can certainly attest to the economic engine that is created by having an interstate highway nearby. We’re certain southwest Indiana will see positive economic growth as a result of the new highway.

INDOT said the section set to open will connect communities from just northeast of Evansville at Interstate 64 to the U.S. 231 interchange about 20 miles southwest of Bloomington. Construction began in 2008.

The I-69 project has been the subject of numerous lawsuits filed by environmentalists and others who supported an alternative proposal to upgrade existing highways. Opponents contend the highway will damage sensitive ecosystems and won’t live up to state officials’ claims of quicker travel times and an economic boost for the rural region.

In announcing the opening, Gov. Mitch Daniels said: “Many people said this interstate expansion wouldn’t happen in their lifetime, but it’s now poised to open and the result will be greater economic opportunity, faster and safer travel, improved connectivity, easier access for leisure travel and more.”

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