Kentucky, Indiana officials break ground on I-69 ‘gamechanger’ extension

Published 3:00 pm Saturday, June 25, 2022

The Centre Square

It was a milestone day in Henderson, Kentucky on Wednesday, as officials from Kentucky, Indiana and the federal government came together to break ground on a highly anticipated Interstate 69 extension project.

I-69 in Kentucky starts in Henderson and goes through the state’s western section. It’s aligned to connect with the Indiana portion of the interstate highway, which currently ends in Evansville, across the Ohio River from Henderson.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking was for the first phase of the project, which will extend the highway in Henderson and then take it east of the city before reaching the river. Construction starts on the project this summer and is expected to wrap up in 2025.

It’s one of three phases of the project. The other phases include an Indiana extension that starts in 2024 and is scheduled to be completed three years later. The final part of the project, the four-lane bridge across the river, is set to start design work in 2025.

Officials hope construction will start in 2027. The current plan is for that work to take four years, but leaders in both states are seeking ways to expedite the process.

Local officials say the national highway, designed to run from the Canadian border in Michigan to the Mexican border in Texas, will help spur economic development in the region.

“We’re already seeing the interest and investment, and I can’t wait to see what’s next,” Henderson County Judge/Executive Brad Schneider said. “This project will bring opportunities to our area for decades to come.”

Among the Indiana officials on hand was Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, who said the I-69 project would transform the metropolitan area with a population of more than 300,000.

“Interstate connectivity is a gamechanger, and I’m excited to see the growth and opportunities ahead for Evansville and Henderson,” Winnecke said. “I’ve always seen the many benefits this region offers. With the I-69 Ohio River Crossing, we’re taking those benefits to the next level.”

The phase that starts this year will add more than 6 miles of highway in Kentucky. It will also create two new interchanges and redesign another.

The I-69 extension has been one of four transportation priority projects for the Beshear Administration and state government. Earlier this year, lawmakers passed a budget that included $250 million in general fund dollars toward those projects. That money will be used to match federal grants available through the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress last year.

“I know how long people in this area have waited to see this bridge, and I know how much it means to them,” the governor said. “That’s why completing this important interstate connection has been a priority for my administration. The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will mean improved travel and increased opportunities in Western Kentucky and beyond.”