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A race to the finish: a construction update for the massive I-69 infrastructure project south of Indianapolis

Work continues on the future I-69 at Southport Road
Posted at 8:00 PM, Nov 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-10 11:15:11-05

INDIANAPOLIS — A massive, new interstate project south of Indianapolis is on track to open by the end of 2024, according to INDOT officials.

Johnson County business owner, Josh McCarty, is used to a lot of noise, dirt and heavy machinery.

His company, McCarty Mulch and Stone, sits on 55 acres of land and specializes in retail and wholesale supplies of land, bulk landscape materials, soils and natural stone.

But now, he and his staff have a front row seat to construction of the new Interstate 69 out their window. Their driveway used to have direct access for customers from State Road 37 in Johnson County.

"And that was great, easy access for our customers, for our trucks to get in and out of the state highway," says McCarty.

But that quick and easy access to his business of 25 years has been cut off by the new Interstate 69 project.

"Once we saw the initial plans for the new highway 69, we were really concerned about, okay, how's this going to affect us?" said McCarty. "Are people still going to be able to access us? And, you know, it hasn't been necessarily the easiest thing for that to take place during this highway construction. The last year or so, it's been a little rough with access and access points."

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Josh McCarty, owner of McCarty Mulch and Stone

The final stretch, or section 6, of the I-69 project currently under construction stretches from north of Martinsville through Johnson and Marion Counties to eventually connect with I-465 on the south side of Indianapolis.

Now, McCarty and other businesses and homeowners who lost their direct access to a highway due to the new interstate have to use different routes to their drives, like the new western access road that runs between Waverly and the Johnson/Marion County line.

"There's going to be three exits on 69 off that western access road," said McCarty. "So being able to have that access road and being able for our customers to go all the way up and down through the county here on the west side, this will be helpful."

Large portions of that western access road are complete and McCarty and his staff have been communicating with customers and wholesalers who need to find a new way onto their property.

"We were very proactive in reaching out to them early on during the construction and letting them know how to access us," said McCarty. "For some of our retail clients, and just our homeowners in general, we took to social media, you know, and Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and kind of told everyone how to access us. But we also receive a lot of phone calls daily from customers going, 'Hey, how do we get into your place?'"

But for McCarty, even through the construction headaches, he tries to look big picture.

"I think all things considered, if we want to have a growing and thriving community, and we want the state to be the best, we have to have quality infrastructure in place," said McCarty. "A state highway that was built in the early 70s, it's not going to serve the community the same way that it will in 2022 or 2025. So, you know, we have to have these quality infrastructure improvements."

The new I-69 which connects Evansville and points to the southwest into Indianapolis has been a topic of conversation in Indiana for decades. Now drivers south of Indianapolis get a front row seat to this massive infrastructure improvement project as it nears the finish line.

Natalie Garrett is the spokesperson for the I-69 Finish Line and tells WRTV this is a big deal for the state.

"[There's been] tremendous progress along the entire corridor, specifically, since we opened that stretch in Martinsville late last year," said Garrett. "[There's] progress along the entire corridor under construction, from just north of Martinsville up to 465. Definitely an exciting time."

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WRTV's Lauren Casey speaks to Natalie Garrett with INDOT

After some early delays in previous parts of the project in southern Indiana, this last stretch is moving right along through Johnson County and reaching into Marion County, with an impact on traffic flow but no full closure of State Road 37.

"We were able to shift traffic from one side to the other along 37 to construct one side of the new interstate versus the other," said Garrett. "There's a number of traffic shifts that have happened over the last month or so to shift traffic over to the new pavement so work can begin on the other side. So that's been an advantage."

Garrett says being able to utilize one side of the state highway while working on another has been a huge advantage in this section of the project for both drivers and the contractor.

"Working under traffic is always more risky to crews that are working on the roadway," said Garrett. "So if we can shift traffic to one side or the other, that's definitely an advantage for the contractor in terms of safety."

Garrett urges drivers to stay alert over the next several months and avoid distractions as construction is still underway and the travel lanes are open but restricted.

"I think it's important for drivers to remain aware of changing conditions," said Garrett. "Just because things were one way today, they could be maybe a little different tomorrow just as things progress."

She says over the next few months things will be moving quickly.

"As we approach the end of the year heading into winter, we ask people to continue to slow down, avoid distractions, drive carefully through work zones [and] watch for equipment," she said.

Garrett gave us some timelines and expectations as we head into winter and the new year.

"For continued mainline construction, people can expect more interchanges to open," said Garrett. "14 signals total are being removed."

Garrett gave WRTV an update on the most recent timeline for the project and when drivers can expect interchanges currently under construction to open.

Two movements at Southport Road are expected to open late this week. Southport Road traffic will go onto the bridge that runs over the future I-69, and southbound State Road 37 to Southport Rd as well as Southport Rd. to SR 37 northbound movements will be available for traffic.

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A truck driving on future bridge of Southport Road over I-69

Other movements at that interchange are expected to open by the end of the year.

Traffic will have access to SR 37 southbound via a temporary workaround while the other ramps are under construction at Southport Road.

County Line Road currently has three movements open to traffic.

County Line Road to SR 37 northbound is expected to open later this year.

Traffic is scheduled to move to the Smith Valley Road bridge in mid-2023, with the full interchange open to traffic by the end of 2023.

The new SR 37 northbound to SR 144 exit ramp is scheduled to open this week, and SR 144 to SR 37 southbound is expected to open by the end of the year. Other parts of this interchange are already operational.

There's an easy way to stay up to date on the latest happenings along I-69; INDOT has created a whole website for the project.

"There's photos, videos, we have some fun gauges there on the homepage that kind of show where we're at in terms of progress," said Garrett. "We're just over halfway corridor wide, which is super exciting."

INDOT also utilizes social media and I-69 Finish Line has its own accounts. Plus, on the website, you can sign up for email or text alerts.

They do weekly updates called their "track update" that you can get sent directly to your phone so you know what to expect in the week ahead for your commute.

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