One of the most critical issues to the future of southern Indiana is ensuring job retention and creation. Nearly a year ago we were notified that the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) did not have the funds to complete the four-lane highway 231 north of the Huntingburg Airport, though $7 million in environmental studies had been completed for the proposed bypass for Huntingburg and Jasper. This caused the Hwy 231 Coalition and local elected officials to “go back to the drawing board”.
We studied INDOT’s concerns and recognized the real opportunity was to link Hwy 231 to I-69 as a connector. Further, though four-lane highways are good, the interstate “brand” is what companies look for when locating a facility. Often they require being within 10 miles of an interstate. Though we have I-64 running through our district, we have terrible access north through Dubois and Spencer counties. Finally, we all learned the vulnerability of I-65 while Louisville’s Sherman-Minton bridge was closed for repairs.
Thus the study of I-67, the proposed new interstate from Bowling Green, Ky. to Washington, Ind. would divert traffic just north of Nashville allowing an alternative route from overcrowded I-65 through Louisville utilizing the Natcher Parkway, Hwy 231 and a new connector to Washington, Ind. This distance will be only slightly longer, but an estimated 15 minutes faster. We would utilize the $250 million investment Kentucky already made in the four-lane Rockport 231 bridge which is only 8 percent utilized and the new four-lane Hwy 231 through Spencer County which would simply require additional interchanges (and fix safety issues there), and 38 miles of new construction through Dubois County. Kentucky is already in the process of upgrading and then applying for interstate status of the Natcher Parkway.
For the past six months Hank Menke, president of the I-67 Development Corporation, Rep. Mark Messmer (R-Jasper) and I, as well as others, have been meeting with the governor’s office, INDOT and other key stakeholders to study the feasibility and economic impact of this new interstate corridor. On Tuesday, March 20 a dozen of us representing southern Indiana and western Kentucky traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Senators Lugar and Coats, Reps. Bucshon, Young, and Guthrie and the office of Senator McConnell. We were well received as we discussed the importance of this interstate project to Dubois, Spencer and surrounding counties, as well as to the States of Indiana and Kentucky. An initial feasibility and economic impact study for this project is underway and will be presented to the I-67 Development Corporation Board in early May.
I-67 is a transformational opportunity for our district. Know that I am doing all I can to support, study, and promote this project. If you have questions or comments on I-67, please contact me by phone at 317-232-9769 or by email at H74@in.gov.
Rep. Sue Ellspermann (R-Ferdinand)