INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Gov.-elect Mike Pence is looking at public-private
partnerships as one of the methods Indiana might use to finish the state’s
142-mile Interstate 69 extension.
Pence, who takes office Jan. 14, said his administration will prioritize
completing the Evansville-to-Indianapolis project, the first half of which
was built under outgoing Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fellow Republican.
“We’re going to finish that work. We’re going to find out where to do it,
we’re going to find out how to do it, but we’re going to do it,” Pence said
Daniels has pointed to public-private partnerships as one option for
finishing the highway. He noted that one of the new Ohio River bridges in
the works is being built with private money that will be repaid through
Pence has also identified public-private partnerships as one of the “various
options” his team will examine, the Evansville Courier & Press reported
The first 67 miles of the I-69 extension opened in November from Evansville
to Crane, and the segment from Crane to Bloomington is set to open by the
end of 2014, bringing the highway to 94 miles.
The money that the state tapped for the highway — a portion of the $3.8
billion the state got for leasing the Indiana Toll Road — has already been
spent or allocated, raising the question of how the state will pay for the
highway’s 48 miles between Bloomington and Indianapolis’ south side.
Once the money from the toll road is gone, the I-69 project will have to
compete with other bridge and road projects for the shrinking pot of gas tax
funds available for infrastructure upgrades.
But the Indiana Department of Transportation — whose commissioner, Michael
B. Cline, will continue in that post under Pence — recently asked
contractors to propose ways they might play a greater role in completing the
INDOT has thus far played a central role in managing each section of the
highway’s construction. The agency’s staff has led the way in producing
environmental impact statements, designing route options and choosing which
one to build, and hiring contractors to build the segments. INDOT also
maintains the highway after it’s built.
But the information that INDOT posted in recent weeks asks contractors to
submit ideas spelling out how it could handle the highway’s section five
that will run from Bloomington to Martinsville, including design,
construction and maintenance.
INDOT said the goal is to cut costs by awarding the project in a single
contract, rather than several. Cline said the private sector has “very, very
creative people” and the agency is asking for their input.
He said it’s important to press forward with the Bloomington-to-Martinsville
section as quickly as possible because a delay would force congestion that
Bloomington’s roadways are not prepared to handle.
“What we’re trying to do is, as quickly as we can for the people in and
around Bloomington, get section five completed,” Cline said.
Pence said he intends to create a blue-ribbon panel during this year’s
campaign to study Indiana’s infrastructure and funding needs, and that the
options he’ll pursue will come out of that panel’s recommendations.
Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault said the still-forming administration has
not yet put together the panel in part because it is focused on filling