Corridor of National Significance
In 1991, the United States Congress approved the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) that designated certain corridors of national significance to be included in the National Highway System. Corridor 18, defined as extending from Indianapolis, Indiana to Memphis, Tennessee, via Evansville, Indiana was one of the designated corridors. Subsequent federal legislation extended Corridor 18, which later was identified as I-69, to be a 2,680-mile international and interstate trade corridor from Canada to Mexico.
In late 1999, the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) initiated a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to analyze a wide range of highway corridors to link Evansville and Indianapolis as part of the National I-69 project. INDOT identified five general highway corridors for detailed study, which typically are 2,000 feet in width. Most of these corridors had routing options near Indianapolis, which resulted in a total of 12 alternatives in the Tier 1 EIS. A detailed analysis of these 12 alternatives was presented in the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) released in July 2002.
After thorough consideration of all comments from resource agencies, interest groups, and the general public, INDOT issued a Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) in December, 2003 which recommended Alternative 3C as the preferred corridor. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) approved this recommendation in a Record of Decision (ROD) issued on March 24, 2004, paving the way for the initiation of Tier 2 studies for I-69.
The Tier 1 EIS identified six sections for Tier 2 studies of Alternative 3C. At the onset of Tier 2 studies, INDOT selected six section consultants to determine the final alignment of the approximately 350-foot wide highway within the approved corridor. Following environmental study and preliminary design of I-69 Section 1, the ROD was issued by the FHWA on December 12, 2007. With final FHWA approval granted, final design, right-of-way purchase, and construction were able to begin on the 13-mile Section 1 project. With an infusion of $700 million dollars from the “Major Moves” transportation infrastructure legislation, the project received the needed financial boost to make the highway a reality.
On July 16, 2008, construction began on Section 1, marking a historical day for Southwest Indiana and the I-69 project in Indiana.