Interstate 69 in Indiana

Interstate 69 in Indiana

infobox road
maint=Indiana Department of Transportation

length_ref=Fact|date=August 2007
terminus_a=Jct|state=IN|I|465|SR|37 at Binford Boulevard in Indianapolis
junction=jct|state=IN|US|24 in Fort Wayne, Indiana
jct|state=IN|US|30 in Fort Wayne, Indiana
jct|state=IN|I|80|I|90 near Angola, IN
terminus_b=Jct|state=MI|I|69 at Michigan state line
In the U.S. state of Indiana, Interstate 69 presently runs northeast from Indianapolis and traverses through the city of Fort Wayne. The route carries motorists to the state of Michigan.

Route description

From the Michigan state line to Fort Wayne, I-69 bypasses the former route of U.S. 27. Before 2001, I-69 shared its alignment with U.S. 27, but U.S. 27 has since been truncated to the I-69/SR-3 interchange on the north side of Fort Wayne. From the I-469 interchange on the north side of Fort Wayne to the Coliseum Boulevard interchange northwest of downtown, I-69 is multiplexed with U.S. 30. U.S. 33 joins I-69 at this interchange and follows I-69 south. U.S. 24 is also signed with I-69 between Jefferson Boulevard and the I-469 interchange near Fort Wayne International Airport. South of Fort Wayne, I-69 continues south, multiplexing with U.S. 35 between Gas City, and Daleville. I-69 then turns west-southwest near Anderson. It enters Indianapolis from the northeast multiplexed with SR-37, terminating at I-465. Upon reaching the I-465 terminus, motorists exit the freeway to use I-465. Continuing straight, one will see the I-69 mainline transition to Binford Boulevard (Old SR-37) beyond the I-465 interchange.

The portion of I-69 between I-465 and the Indiana Toll Road is part of the original interstate highway system as it was mapped out in 1956. It was extended north to Lansing in the 1960s. Until recently, all of I-69 in Indiana was 4-lanes, but the Indiana Department of Transportation has been reconstructing and widening I-69 to six lanes through Fort Wayne. Likewise, INDOT has widened parts of I-69 northeast of Indianapolis to either six or eight lanes during the past decade.


The original southern termination point of I-69 was to have been at the I-65/I-70 interchange (known locally as the "spaghetti bowl") near 13th and College Avenue in Indianapolis, Indiana. In fact, the grading and overpasses for this connection's ramps can still be seen at that location. Later, the State of Indiana changed its mind and sought to designate the freeway connecting the spaghetti bowl to the I-69/I-465 interchange (approximately convert|11|mi|km|0) as Interstate 165. Due to a political fight over the inner-city portions of I-70 and I-65, it was decided to scrap I-165. In its place, the state widened I-70 from eight to 10 lanes and reworked its eastside interchange with I-465 to handle the additional traffic loads from the northeastern suburbs.

Interstate 69 Extension Planning and Construction

I-69 has been divided into a number of sections of independent utility (SIUs).

IU 1

SIU 1 includes the existing I-69 from Port Huron, Michigan, to the I-465 interchange on the northeast side of Indianapolis. It was built in stages between 1956 and 1992, with the most recent segments opening in the vicinity of Lansing, Michigan in 1992. Work in SIU 1 includes mainline upgrades and operational improvements. Work to add a travel lane in each direction, including bridge and pavement reconstruction, and interchange reconfiguration has been ongoing since 2002 in the Fort Wayne, Indiana, vicinity. SIU 1 also includes spot improvements and pavement rehabilitation to the I-469 loop east for Fort Wayne and additional mainline and interchange improvements to I-69 northeast of Indianapolis.

I-69 bypasses Fort Wayne to the west, while I-469 bypasses the city to the east. There have been discussions in recent years of rerouting I-69 through downtown Fort Wayne to improve access to the city and spur economic growth in the city center. The most logical alignment would follow US-27 south through downtown Fort Wayne to Paulding Road, then turn west, following Paulding Road to Airport Expressway, then following Airport Expressway and rejoining the existing alignment near Fort Wayne International Airport. As of August 2007 however, INDOT has no formal plans to reroute I-69 into downtown Fort Wayne, although the issue continues to be hotly discussed among Fort Wayne residents. Fact|date=March 2008

IU 2

This segment includes the existing I-465 loop around Indianapolis. It is most likely that I-69 will be routed using the eastern half of I-465 to the SR-37 interchange south of Indianapolis. This portion of I-465 was reconstructed in 2000.

There's also speculation of a route through the city, along the old SR-37/Binford Blvd corridor. No official route has been determined at this time. []

On November 9, 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels announced plans for a convert|75|mi|km|0|sing=on outer loop around Indianapolis known as the Indiana Commerce Corridor. If constructed, the route would have been 100% privately funded, with a portion of the revenues possibly applied to constructing I-69 from Indianapolis to the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. The remaining portion of the highway to Evansville, Indiana is already funded with funds from the Major Moves initiative. [ cite news | title=The I-69 Freeway | publisher=Evansville Courier & Press | date=November 10, 2006 | url= | accessdate=2006-11-25] [ cite news | title=Gov Wants Toll Road Loop Around Indy | publisher=Indianapolis Star | date=November 10, 2006 | url= | accessdate=2006-11-10] Strong opposition from local residents and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives forced Governor Daniels to abandon the ICC plan on March 24, 2007, although House Democrats assured southwest Indiana residents that this decision would not affect construction on I-69 between Indianapolis and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center. [ [ Daniels abandons Indy-area toll road, Indianapolis Star, March 25, 2007] ] [ [ Commerce Connector Scrapped, Evansville Courier Press, March 25, 2007] ]

On October 24, 2007, INDOT announced a $600 million plan to reconstruct the I-69/I-465 interchange on the northeast side of Indianapolis, that includes widening about 8 miles (13 km) of I-69, I-465, and Binford Boulevard. Environmental studies and design work are currently underway, and construction is expected to begin in 2012. [ [ INDOT Reveals Plans for Major Construction on I-465 & I-69, WISH TV Channel 8 Indianapolis, October 24, 2007] ]

IU 3

From Indianapolis, Interstate 69 is planned to follow the route of State Road 37 south via Martinsville to Bloomington, Indiana, where a new terrain routing to the southwest will serve the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, Washington, and Oakland City, Indiana. The route will then intersect Interstate 64 (where SIU 3 ends) and encompass existing Interstate 164 through the Evansville, Indiana, area, crossing the Ohio River a few miles upstream of the existing U.S. Route 41 bridges. (SIU 4)

Tier 1 Studies

The Indiana Department of Transportation has been highly methodical in its analysis and mitigation of the potential environmental impacts associated with the planned I-69 extension through southwest Indiana. As such INDOT has taken a two-tier approach to completing the environmental documentation required for construction to proceed. During the Tier 1 studies, 14 route alternatives were analyzed and compared against the "No-Build" option. Of the 14 alternatives, nine alternatives were eliminated from consideration as either having too great of an impact on the natural and human environment, and/or failing to achieve the stated goals established for the I-69 extension. The five alternatives that remained were as follows:

Alternative 1

US-41 to Terre Haute; Interstate 70 from Terre Haute to Indianapolis.
"Favored heavily by Terre Haute".

Alternative 2

US-41 to Vincennes; Indiana 67 from Vincennes to Indianapolis.
"Favored by Princeton and Vincennes".

Alternative 3

One of the two mostly overland routes along Indiana 57 crossing cross country to Indiana 37 near Bloomington and take Indiana 37 to Indianapolis.
"Largely Supported by the Evansville Area".

Alternative 4

Indiana 57 to US 231 near Bloomfield; US 231 from there to Spencer; from there either going cross country to Martinsville; Indiana 37 from Martinsville to Indianapolis, or continuing north to Interstate 70; Interstate 70 to Indianapolis.
"Had more support from the "Hoosier Hills Area"

Alternative 5

Indiana 57 to US 50 bypass just south of Washington; Following US 50 Sparingly eastward through Daviess and Martin Counties to Indiana 37 just east of Bedford; Indiana 37 from Bedford to Indianapolis.
"Favored mainly by Bedford".

elected Alternative

In 2003 INDOT presented the Tier 1 EIS to the Federal Highway Administration, which identified Alternative 3C (following SR 37 between Indianapolis and Bloomington, then over new terrain to US-231 north of Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center, then following SR-57 south-southwest to the I-64/I-164 interchange northeast of Evansville) as the least environmentally damaging practical alternative. Subsequently in March 2003 the FHWA issued a Record of Decision approving the Tier 1 EIS for SIU 3.

Tier 2 Studies and Lawsuits

During Tier 2 studies, INDOT further divided SIU 3 into six smaller segments, allowing work on each subsegment to proceed at its own pace. On December 21, 2006, INDOT announced completion of the Tier 2 draft EIS [ [ Tier 2 Draft EIS for SIU 3, Segment 1] ] for the convert|13|mi|km|0|sing=on section between I-64 and State Road 64 near Oakland City. Officials further noted that they will accelerate the final EIS and construction on the southernmost convert|2|mi|km|0|sing=on section from I-64 to State Road 68 to facilitate access to the Toyota's Princeton plant. [ [ Officials finish draft study of I-69 leg, Indianapolis Star, December 21, 2006] ] On April 30, Governor Daniels signed the state's two-year $26 billion budget, which includes $119 million to fund construction of the southernmost segment of I-69, ensuring that construction begins as scheduled in the summer of 2008. The Final EIS for the southernmost section was issued on October 22, 2007.

On October 3, 2006, environmental groups and six citizens along the I-69 corridor filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging that state and federal agencies "rigged" environmental studies and violated several federal laws in the selection of a new-terrain route for I-69. They further pressed the court for a summary ruling directing the FHWA and INDOT to route I-69 over I-70 and US-41. Judge David Hamilton disagreed, and on December 10, 2007 he issued a 58-page ruling upholding the selected route for I-69 and the Tier 1 Record of Decision. His ruling did however, leave open the possibility that the FHWA and INDOT may be forced to reconsider some or all of the previously-rejected Tier 1 alternatives if there are new significant findings during the Tier 2 studies that were absent from the Tier 1 EIS. Barring any new major findings in the Tier 2 studies, Judge Hamilton's ruling paved the way for construction to begin on the southernmost segment.

Environmentalists have sworn to do everything possible to stop its construction. Especially active is a group called Roadblock Earth First which has been responsible for a number of incidents in Oakland City and at a Haubstadt asphalt yard given the contract for the first segment. [ [ Invitation-only groundbreaking set for I-69 segment : Local News : Evansville Courier Press ] ] [ [ Long-awaited I-69 begins : Local News : Evansville Courier Press ] ]

Construction Begins

On December 12, 2007, the FHWA issued its Record of Decision giving final federal approval for construction to begin on the section between I-64/I-164 and State Road 64 near Oakland City. [ [ Judge gives I-69 plan nod in suit, Evansville Courier-Press, December 11, 2007] ] [ [ Hoosier Envornmental Council v. U.S. Department of Transportation (Accessed December 11, 2007)] ] INDOT awarded the first SIU 3 construction contract to Gohmann Asphalt and Construction Company of Sellersburg, Indiana on February 6, 2008. This contract, completed on May 31, 2008, included the removal of buildings and vegetation from the I-69 right-of-way between I-64 and State Road 68. Gohmann also won the construction contract for the first two miles from I-64 to SR-68 with a $25 million bid. Construction began with a groundbreaking ceremony in Evansville on July 16, 2008. INDOT will build its extension of I-69 using the design-build method, and plans to have the first section from I-64 to SR-68 open to traffic by June 2010. [ [ 18 Months Construction Letting List (Major Moves Projects) As of Date:01-Jun-2007] ] [ [ Clearing way for interstate leg, Evansville Courier-Press, March 13, 2008] ] Meanwhile, utility companies have started relocating power lines, water mains, and gas pipelines in preparation for construction. It is possible that this segment may initially be signed as an extension of I-164 until the remainder of SIU 3 is complete.

Construction Progress

Crews have completed most of the earthworks for I-69 between I-64 and SR-68 as of September 6, 2008. The project manager stated that overall construction on the I-64 to SR-68 section is about 33% complete. [ [ I-69 Sets Off for Indy, Evansville Courier-Press, September 6, 2008] ]

Financing Construction

To fund construction of this extension, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels introduced a proposal known as "Major Moves" in early 2006. It provided $700 million from the Indiana Toll Road lease to be used to complete nearly 20 years of environmental studies and construct about half of the proposed extension (between the I-64/164 interchange and the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center). It also allowed for the construction of convert|117|mi|km|0 of the convert|142|mi|km|0|sing=on I-69 extension to Evansville to be constructed as the Southern Indiana Toll Road. Due to ongoing controversy over making this portion of the extension a toll-road, the governor announced in November 2006 that the entire stretch of the highway would be toll-free, subject to construction of the Indiana Commerce Connector (SIU 2). [ cite news | title=The I-69 Freeway | publisher=Evansville Courier & Press | date=November 10, 2006
url= | accessdate=2006-11-25
] Officials with the INDOT have since stated that I-69 will be toll-free regardless of whether or not the Indiana Commerce Connector is constructed. [cite news | title=No Tolls | publisher=Evansville Courier & Press | date=January 17, 2007 | url= | accessdate=2007-01-17] Additionally, the U.S. Congress allocated an additional $14 million in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU authorization to construct I-69 Evansville to Indianapolis. [ [ I-69 Newsline,] ] [ [ SAFETEA-LU] ] When SIU 3 and the Indiana portion of SIU 4 are completed, I-69 will be approximately convert|335|mi|km|0 in Indiana.

IU 4

Interstate 69 is planned to follow the existing Interstate 164 south from Interstate 64 to the Ohio River near Green River Road. I-69 will then continue south (instead of turning west with I-164), crossing the Ohio on a new bridge between Evansville and Henderson. I-69 will continue south from the Ohio River to the Audubon Parkway, then turn southwest to join the Edward T. Breathitt Pennyrile Parkway in the vicinity of Interchange 63 south of Henderson. The Final EIS is currently being prepared for this segment of I-69, but this portion of the route has not yet been funded. Construction of the new Ohio River crossing and new roadway on the Kentucky side is expected to cost approximately $800 million. Indiana and Kentucky officials have said construction on the new Ohio River Bridge will not begin until at least 2020, after two new crossings near Louisville are completed. [ [ Don't get in rush for I-69 bridge, Evansville Courier-Press, December 9, 2007] ] As Indiana prepares to break ground on SIU-3 within the next few months, Kentucky officials have indicated that collecting tolls may be the only feasible option for completing the I-69 bridge as traditional federal and state funding for such projects is drying up. To reflect this, Senate Majority Leader David Williams (R-Burkesville) introduced Senate Bill 7 on January 25, 2007. If enacted, the bill would establish public authorities to oversee construction, maintenance and operations, and collect tolls on four new Ohio River crossings: the two Louisville bridges (currently under construction), the I-69 bridge, and the Spence Bridge. Senate Bill 7 has bipartisan support in both chambers of the Kentucky Legislature and by Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat. The bill also provides state and local oversight, each having a seven-member board with four members appointed by the governor and three members from the local area. [ [ Toll Seen for I-69 Bridge, Evansville Courier-Press, January 27, 2007] ]

IU 27

SIU 27 is a spur route off the I-69 mainline that encompasses I-94 from Port Huron, Michigan to Chicago via Detroit, Benton Harbor, Michigan, and Gary, Indiana. While this SIU was completed as I-94 during the late 1950s and 1960s, it serves as a critical transportation corridor between Chicago and eastern Canada. Work in association with the I-69 project includes a complete reconstruction of nearly the entire I-94 corridor. As of December 2006, reconstruction of the Borman Expressway between the Indiana East-West Toll Road and the Illinois state line is nearing completion. Work is underway on reconstructing the segment of I-94 in Illinois from the Indiana state line to the I-80/I-294 split south of Chicago. Meanwhile rebuilding of the Dan Ryan Expressway through Downtown Chicago is ongoing. SIU 27 also includes the Illiana Expressway, a proposed toll road planned to start at Interstate 65 in northwest Indiana and head west to Interstate 57 south of Chicago.


Particularly controversial has been the routing in Indiana. The planned extension to Evansville has pitted cities, towns, and counties against one another. The greatest support for I-69 is in Indiana's far southwestern counties and Evansville, while the greatest opposition is between Bloomington and Indianapolis. Bloomington and Martinsville both oppose upgrading State Road 37 to Interstate 69. This has led to southwestern Indiana communities accusing highway opponents further north of trying to isolate this region from the rest of the state by blocking construction of a direct highway link to Indianapolis. To the west, communities along US-41 favor the presently selected alignment in lieu of the only other feasible routing: I-70 to Terre Haute, then US-41 south to Evansville. Regardless of the I-69 routing, an Interstate-quality bypass is slated to be built east of Terre Haute, which supports the I-70/US-41 routing over the selected routing of I-69 for economic reasons.

The Indiana Department of Transportation, current and past governors, and businesses and elected officials in Evansville and adjacent southwest Indiana communities, have favored a direct route via Bloomington that would be built over new terrain from Bloomington to Evansville. Supporters argued that this direct route reduces the travel time to Indianapolis as well as improves access to Bloomington for residents of southwestern Indiana, something a route via Terre Haute would not achieve. State DOT officials have also pointed out that Indiana 37 will eventually be upgraded from a 4-lane arterial route to a freeway, with or without Interstate 69. After extensive review of the alternative routes as well as detailed environmental studies, the state selected the new terrain route via Bloomington.

Environmentalists claim the construction of I-69 will lead to the destruction of 1,500 acres (6 km²) of forest and more than convert|300|acre|km2|1 of wetlands. Some of the destroyed land lies within the Hoosier National Forest and the Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge and Management Area, a habitat vital to some endangered species. [ [ Earth First! Journal - NAFTA Superhighway, by Sprout ] ] Contrary to these claims, official EIS maps that illustrate the selected corridor of I-69 (Alternative 3C) passes well to the west of the Hoosier National Forest, and avoids the Patoka National Wildlife Refuge as well. Environmental groups and local elected officials filed suit in federal court October 2, 2006, to block further study and construction of the route, alleging that the process was rigged to favor the routing via Bloomington. [ cite news | title=Groups sue to halt I-69 project | publisher=Fort Wayne Journal Gazette | date=October 3, 2006 | url= | accessdate=2006-11-25] This lawsuit was dismissed by U.S. District Judge David F. Hamilton on December 12, 2007, clearing the way for construction to begin in 2008. Another area of controversy arose in late 2005 when governor Mitch Daniels proposed levying tolls on the highway to finance its construction, either as a state project or a public-private partnership, in order to accelerate the project. As the route would overlay the existing Indiana 37 between Bloomington and Indianapolis, and there currently is no other free alternative route between Bloomington and Martinsville, this proposal has raised concerns among local residents and businesses.

In March 2006, Governor Mitch Daniels signed a bill known as "Major Moves" that leased the Indiana East-West Toll Road, but also included a compromise on constructing I-69 in southwest Indiana. As part of the deal, the legislation permitted Governor Daniels to enter a similar public-private partnership for construction of convert|117|mi|km|0 of I-69 as the Southern Indiana Toll Road from Martinsville to the I-64/I-164 interchange, while the remaining convert|25|mi|km|0 from Martinsville to the I-465/Indiana 37 interchange in Indianapolis would remain toll-free. On June 20, 2006, the Indiana Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge brought on by I-69 opponents, upholding Major Moves legislation in a 4-0 decision.

The toll road option was highly unpopular, even among many who supported the extension via Bloomington. As a result Governor Mitch Daniels announced in December 2006 that I-69 through southwest would be toll-free.

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