It’s finally final: Interstate 69 is coming to State Road 37, and passing through the northwest section of Johnson County.

This week, the state released the final environmental impact statement, along with the record of decision by the federal government, meaning I-69 is a go, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Andy Dietrick said.

“We have hit a major milestone,” Dietrick said.

The final report comes after three and a half years of studies, public meetings and meetings with residents, business owners and local governments. The document details how decisions, such as where overpasses should be built and the design of interchanges, were made.

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In addition, the report also shows a few minor changes from the past, including two sound barrier walls that are planned in Johnson County. That information will be used to begin designing I-69, but minor changes could still be made as construction gets closer, Dietrick said.

Next, the state will begin designing, buying needed land and constructing the interstate from the south to the north. That means work will begin in Martinsville in 2020, and eventually move up to Johnson County and the southside, he said. No timeline is available yet on when design and buying land will begin here, he said.

According to the report, nearly 60 properties in Johnson County likely will need to be relocated due to the interstate, which includes a car sales lot at State Road 144, several pieces of farmland along the west side of the interstate, the White River Township fire station and eight homes along Smith Valley Road, about a dozen homes in the Wakefield West neighborhood, at least two businesses at the intersection with Fairview Road and at least three businesses and eight homes at the intersection with County Line Road.

The new report also shows that two residential areas near the interstate in Johnson County will get sound barriers to help block out the noise from the interstate traffic, a change from previous plans, Dietrick said.

Under the final study, two sound barriers totaling more than 3,000 feet will be added along the west side of the interstate near Stones Crossing Road, and along the east side of the interstate near the Wakefield West neighborhood. The barriers, which will cost nearly $2 million, met the state’s criteria with the number of homes impacted and the cost per home, according to the study.

The report also details how other recent changes in the route and its features, such as overpasses and interchanges, were made, including:

  • Extending an access road along the west side of the interstate cost the most and required the most land, but also gave the best access to traffic in the area, since several crossroads would be cut off when the interstate is built, the study said.
  • Eliminating an overpass at Stones Crossing Road and redesigning the planned interchange at Smith Valley Road were made so that fewer homes and businesses were impacted, and saved about $3.5 million.
  • The Center Grove Little League fields were avoided by changing the access road near Smith Valley Road.
  • Reducing the number of lanes on the interstate from six to four north of State Road 144 is expected to save about $5 million.
  • Adding roundabout intersections at Mullinix Road and the Smith Valley Road interchange will improve local traffic, which was a key concern mentioned by local residents.

Some of those changes increased the cost of the project, but part of that is due to the access road that was added, which is needed for local traffic, the study said.

Public input has been a significant part of the process of reaching this final report, Dietrick said.

The state hosted multiple public meetings in school gymnasiums, but also had more than 300 meetings with smaller groups, such as neighborhoods or local governments, he said. Their goal was to make sure the teams working on this project were easily accessible to the public, he said.

And feedback they received was used to make changes to the final designs, which the study shows.

“We do public involvement and outreach, depending on the size and scope of a project, but this environmental process can be held up as a real good example of good public outreach from the very get-go,” Dietrick said.

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Annie Goeller is managing editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at agoeller@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2718.