Indiana cuts ribbon on 1st half of Interstate 69 extension

Daniels rides route on motorcycle

ELBERFELD, Ind. - Gov. Mitch Daniels has ceremonially cut the ribbon opening the first section of the Interstate 69 extension slated to eventually run from Evansville to Indianapolis.

Daniels joined Congressman Larry Bucshon and other officials for Monday's ceremony on the highway near its Indiana 68 interchange north of Evansville.

"This part of our state, with all the challenges and all the hardships that have been visited on it, is joining full in the prosperity we're looking for for every single Hoosier," Daniels told the crowd.

The governor then rode off on his motorcycle leading a caravan to a second celebration near Washington, with another later at U.S. 231 interchange where the highway currently ends near the Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center southwest of Bloomington.

"It's perfect, as a new road should be," Daniels said. "And it's going to be a source of jobs and joy to people in this whole quadrant of our state who have waited a long time."

In Washington, about halfway up the newly opened segment, the theme was one of relief from people who didn't think this would happen in their lifetimes.

"This says, 'Joe's Bucket List, Driving Through Southern Indiana on I-69.' Check!" said Jasper businessman Joe Dedman.

David Graham is a longtime advocate for the highway. He said this segment is fine, but it won't realize its full economic potential unless it's finished to Indianapolis.

"Now that we have this part of the road completed, we want to make sure that we're ready to complete and work on the efforts to get the road to Indianapolis," Graham said.

The highway is to open to public traffic Monday evening.

Indiana Department of Transportation spokesman Will Wingfield said the project's first 67 miles cost just under $900 million, about 25 percent under cost estimates.

Daniels said building the final two segments to Indianapolis will be tough with the state running out of road money, but he the state should finish I-69, though there might be a delay.

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