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State to fund I-65 widening work

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Commuters heading to and from Indianapolis will benefit from a one-time influx of road funding.

Gov. Mike Pence this week approved spending $200 million in highway funding on two Interstate 65 projects. One project will widen I-65 between Southport Road on the southside and State Road 44 in Franklin. The other highway project getting some of the funding is in the Lafayette area.

The funding for the improvements comes from the state’s Major Moves construction fund. Last year the state planned to put $400 million in road funding into a savings account, but Pence asked to use that money for road projects on highways and interstates now. Lawmakers compromised and agreed to spend $200 million now, and the state budget committee will decide whether to release the other half.

Exactly what I-65 will look like after the work is done isn’t known yet, including how many lanes there will be, officials said.

And exactly when the work will be done also hasn’t been decided, Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said.

Lanes will be added to the section of I-65 in Johnson County and the south side of Marion County; but the project hasn’t been designed, so more details aren’t available, he said.

The project should reduce congestion-related crashes on the highway, he said.

The state considers factors such as traffic volume, crash numbers and the condition of the road pavement when choosing highway projects, he said. In a 2002 study, the most recent one available through INDOT, an average of 51,740 vehicles per day passed through the section of I-65 from Franklin to Whiteland, 55,110 vehicles drove between Whiteland and Greenwood, and 77,260 vehicles used the highway from Greenwood to Southport.

As the state designs the project, one goal will be to use existing medians and land along the highway to make room for more lanes as much as possible, rather than buying property, he said.

INDOT will accept bids from contractors this year on the project between Southport and Franklin, but the start and end dates of the road work haven’t been set yet, Wingfield said.

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