INDIANAPOLIS — South side residents learned Thursday evening at Perry Meridian High School how traffic patterns in their part of town and on Interstate 465 will change as the state prepares to construct the final stretch of Interstate 69.
Beth Sullivan knows the streets of the south side on the back of her hand. Navigating its projects is part of her daily duties as a school bus driver for Perry Township.
But the traffic pattern she knows will be flipped upside down as the massive I-69 projects bring 26 miles of new interstate with 39 new bridges, 10 new interchanges and the elimination of 14 traffic lights when the project is complete in 2024. The project will connect I-69 to I-465 just west of the current exit for State Road 37.
But during the four years of construction, commuters should prepare for delays and slow downs, including the driver of Bus 1279.
"I just want to know what's going to happen between Martinsville and here," Sullivan said. "This lady runs on time no matter what, but you've gotta plan around that and that goes for wherever you work around town. You plan for what's going on."
People living and driving in Johnson and Morgan Counties need to plan for change as well. That's where I-69 currently ends in Martinsville.
As the interstate flows into the Circle City, drivers on I-465 will see changes, too, as the loops is upgraded to four lanes in both directions from I-70 on the southwest side to I-65 on the southeast side.
Indiana Department of Transportation media relations director Mallory Duncan said it is a needed change.
"We've decided, based on traffic counts and what we see as a progression for the next 20-to-40 years, that we needed to widen that portion of 465 to account for the new traffic coming from I-69," Duncan said.
The I-69 project has already been fully funded and will cost $1.5 billion. When it's done, Evansville will directly connect to Indianapolis for the first time, and a trip from Indianapolis to Martinsville will be 11 minutes faster.
I-69 has been talked about for more than a decade, and now southsiders say they are ready for construction to begin.
"That's going to be a bear, but we can get through it," Sullivan said.