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Editorial: Interstate 69 project hits major milestone

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The next leg of the Interstate 69 is nearing a vital point.

A state agency is set to sell $250 million in bonds this month to help pay for construction of the latest segment of the I-69 extension between Indianapolis and Evansville.

The developer chosen to build the stretch of highway from Bloomington to Martinsville will repay the tax-exempt bonds.

According to media reports, bond documents estimate the total cost of the project at $370 million, with the state paying $80 million up front and making annual payments to I-69 Development Partners to maintain the highway for 35 years.

The project will upgrade State Road 37 to interstate standards. Construction on this segment could begin this year, with the section expected to open in 2016.

That will leave only the section from Martinsville to Indianapolis. If the project continues to follow State Road 37, the interstate would pass through the northwest corner of Johnson County. The impact on the western Center Grove area will be significant.

As we have said before, this project is not about shaving a few minutes’ driving time between Indianapolis and Evansville. It’s an economic development project that will allow significantly better access between Indianapolis, Bloomington, the technical centers at Crane and Evansville. The potential long-term benefits for those areas plus the communities in between are substantial.

A completed I-69 represents a significant investment in the area’s economic and transportation infrastructure. Securing the funding for this next step in the Indianapolis-to-Evansville interstate highway is a welcome development.

We celebrate yet another major milestone in this sometimes tortuous journey and grow increasingly eager for its completion.

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