State looks to private firms on I-69 section 

click to enlarge Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he is “firmly committed” to finishing the I-69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis. - THESTATEHOUSEFILE.COM
  • Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he is “firmly committed” to finishing the I-69 extension from Evansville to Indianapolis.

Gov. Mike Pence said Wednesday he's "firmly committed" to completing the extension of Interstate 69 to Indianapolis but he wants to do so using partnerships with private business.

Pence said that doesn't mean tolls. He said there's "no plan for tolling" the sections of I-69 from Crane to Indianapolis. Instead, Pence said the state's Department of Transportation will focus on other opportunities. "There's a variety of ways you can partner with the private sector and some of it has to do with simply financing the construction itself over the long term," he said.

Pence's remarks came during and after a forum the Department of Transportation sponsored for businesses interested in working on Section 5 of the I-69 extension.

That's a 21-mile stretch of U.S. 37 that will be upgraded to interstate standards - including new interchanges and overpasses. It will connect Bloomington to Martinsville. More than 200 transportation industry officials attended the forum, which Pence said was meant to jumpstart the Section 5 work.

INDOT Commissioner Michael Cline told the crowd that the state is seeking "full participation of the industry, from large companies to the smaller companies."

"We're doing all the things we can to make that a possibility," he said.

The state intends to complete Section 5 of the highway project using a public-private partnership - often referred to as a P3 - for the design, building, financing, operation and maintenance of the road. The section is expected to cost between $300 million and $500 million. INDOT officials hope to hire one contractor that will then oversee the work.

The goal, transportation officials said, is to "leverage INDOT's funding appropriations to attract low-cost private sector finance." That's expected to include incentives for private companies to lower construction costs and accelerate completion of the project.

Pence said that will provide "a better value for taxpayers."

The Indiana Finance Authority - in coordination with INDOT - will ask interested companies to submit information to the state later this week. Already, three of the six-sections of the 142-mile I-69 project are open. State transportation officials say the new road shaves 30 minutes off the travel time between Evansville and Crane, home of a naval warfare center where the highway now ends.

Work is underway on Section 4, which connects Crane to Bloomington, with planning underway for the final two sections, which will bring the highway to Indianapolis.

"We're going to finish what we started when it comes to I-69," Pence said. "It's enormously important that we do that.

Lesley Weidenbener is a reporter for, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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