- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

MARTINSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - State officials who chose the Indiana 37 corridor as the final leg of the Interstate 69 extension said Tuesday that route was tapped in part because it will minimize the project’s costs and impact on residents and the environment.

Indiana 37 was chosen from among five proposed routes for the Evansville-to-Indianapolis I-69 extension’s final leg, which will eventually link up with Interstate 465 on Indianapolis’ south side.

Indiana Department of Transportation Commissioner Brandye Hendrickson said years of study and public input found that routing the extension from Martinsville to Indianapolis using Indiana 37 “is the logical choice” and “produces the best return on investment for Indiana taxpayers.”

Although the Indiana 37 corridor was tapped for the sixth and final segment of the partially built interstate, that section’s exact route still must be designed.

The proposal to use Indiana 37 as the I-69 extension’s final stretch had generated opposition from some residents and business owners along that corridor and on Indianapolis’ south side. A state report said nearly 280 residences and 96 businesses between Martinsville and Indianapolis would need to be relocated if Indiana 37 was chosen.

Indianapolis City-County Council member Jason Holliday, who represents Indianapolis’ south side and opposes using Indiana 37 for the final leg, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by the Transportation Department’s decision.

“This has been the preferred route all along,” he told The Indianapolis Star.

Last year, Indiana lawmakers revoked a 2004 law that would have barred the highway from passing through southern Marion County’s Perry Township. That law would have prevented I-69 from using Indiana 37 to link up with I-465.

The Transportation Department said using Indiana 37 for the final leg will avert an estimated 1,380 crashes a year, cut travel times between Martinsville and downtown Indianapolis by 11 minutes and boost wages in a four-county study area by a total of $1.7 billion over 20 years.

Indiana Chamber of Commerce President Kevin Brinegar said the chamber supports using Indiana 37 and considers it “the best alternative” for completing the I-69 extension.

“The corridor requires far less new construction than the alternatives, impacts the fewest homeowners and has the most consensus among all interested parties,” he said in a statement.

The 142-mile interstate’s first three sections spanning 67 miles opened in 2012 between Evansville and Crane. A 27-mile segment opened in December between Crane and Bloomington and construction continues on upgrading the current four-lane Indiana 37 from Bloomington to Martinsville.

The total cost of the I-69 extension is estimated at $3 billion, but the cost of the final leg has not been determined.

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