I-69 extension could impact neighboring states, partnerships

MARTINSVILLE, Ind – Issues from a Central Indiana road project could create a ripple effect on other states and private partnerships in the future.

Construction cones line a 20 mile stretch in Monroe County.

“Oh my God, it’s a nightmare! It is a nightmare,” driver Rebecca Simpson said. “I don’t like driving [State Road] 37 at all.”

In 2008, work started on State Road 37 from Bloomington to Martinsville. Nine years later, only half is complete.

“On Monday, the right lane is closed,” driver Claude Presseau said. “On Tuesday, it might be the left lane, and then on Wednesday you don’t know what’s closed.”

The project had been a public, private partnership, but now, the state is taking over. Because of this, top state lawmakers got an explanation Thursday about what went wrong.

“It was unfortunate that we selected a bad operator, bad choice for the project, but the governor and the finance authority appear to be on top of their game,” State Sen. Luke Kenley, a Republican from Noblesville, said.

“I was happy with what I heard,” State Sen. Karen Tallian, a democrat from Portage said. “It looks like we’re getting out. It looks like we’re not getting hurt too badly.”

Governor Eric Holcomb’s fiscal team told lawmakers, since the state’s credit is better than the developer’s, the cost will go down when it takes out bonds. Overall, the state expects to save $30 million by finishing the project.

There are savings, but the state is now on the hook of maintaining the road it’s taking over for the next few decades. A risk lawmakers say is worth it, but they’re not all sold on future partnerships.

“They’re going to be the wave of the future,” Kenley said. “I think this can be a learning experience for us..”

“He thinks it’s the wave of the future,” Tallian said. “I think we’ve kind of peaked out and are learning that this may not have been what it’s all cracked up to be.”

No matter the future of these partnerships, Hoosiers who drive the stretch of road hope the latest development gets the job done.

“Get it over with, let’s get her done, guys,” Simpson said.

The state hopes to take out bonds to the complete the rest of the project within the coming months. The goal is to finish that stretch of road by August of 2018.