Work starts on next phase of I-69

Next leg will connect Bloomington and Martinsville

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Crews started cutting down trees along a 9-mile stretch of highway through Bloomington Thursday morning as part of the Interstate 69 extension project's next phase.

Workers set out orange warning barrels along part of Indiana 37 in Bloomington on Wednesday. The Indiana Department of Transportation awarded a $2 million contract in December for the tree removal.

Agency spokesman Will Wingfield said about 30 acres of new right of way are being cleared through Bloomington.

Not everyone is happy about the construction, though.

Tom Tokarski has lived on his wooded property for 37 years. Now, an interstate is just a few hundred yards away from his backdoor.

"This was going to be our legacy for our kids and for their kids," Tokarski said. "They've been clearing trees around us here over the last year. The air pollution, the water pollution, the light pollution that's going on now."

Tokarski is actively opposed to a plan that will see I-69 connect Evansville and Indianapolis.

The first three phases of that plan are already complete, and Phase 4 construction is already underway.

On Thursday, INDOT started prepping Phase 5 while looking for a contractor to take the road from Bloomington to Martinsville.

The tree removal is to be finished by March 31. Officials expect construction work on the 21-mile section between Bloomington and Martinsville will start later this year.

INDOT says the project will bring economic vitality to the state and improve Hoosiers' access to jobs, education and healthcare.

Tokarski says while that may be true, the project is devastating to his way of life.
"We believe in conserving the land and the forest and the farmland for future generations for our children and their children – and they are destroying it," Tokarski said.
INDOT officials said Monroe County motorists can expect to see slow-downs and some lane closures along State Road 37 as crews continue to work in the area.

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