LOOGOOTEE – Washington or Loogootee or neither.

Each city has a 40 percent chance of being located near a proposed new highway, which would link SR 66 near the William Natcher Bridge across the Ohio River near Rockport to Interstate 69.

Hundreds of people packed the Loogootee High School auditorium Tuesday night for the first of three public meetings on the proposed highway presented by the Mid-States Corridor Project. 

Similar meetings will be today at Bedford Middle School and Thursday at Jasper Middle School.

Project manager Jason DuPont, from Lochmueller Group, gave the presentation Tuesday. He said the project is currently preparing a Tier 1 environmental impact statement.

DuPont said initial public hearings, including one in Washington, were conducted in 2019. At that time 10 different routes were being considered, which included 28 alternatives. Each one was evaluated as to expected costs, impacts to both natural resources and the community, and performance against the core goals of the project. They are: Increase accessibility to major business markets, provide more efficient truck/freight travel in southern Indiana, reduce crashes in southern Indiana and increase access to major rail and air intermodal centers.

Currently, the project is evaluating 10 alternatives on five different routes. All of the routes initially follow U.S. 231 north from Rockport to just north of Interstate 64. At that point, two routes go northwest to connect with I-69 near Washington.

Another route follows U.S. 231 north past Loogootee to connect with I-69 near the Crane naval base.

The final two routes go east and connect with I-69 in Monroe County south of Bloomington. One route would go to Loogootee and then veer northwest to Bedford. The other would immediately go west through French Lick and then turn north toward Bloomington and I-69. 

Both Washington Mayor Dave Rhoads and Loogootee Mayor Noel Harty attended the meeting. Rhoads would prefer the routes which come through Daviess County to Washington, while Harty supports a route that would come close to Loogootee.

Rhoads knows some people will be opposed to building another highway, since it takes some homes and farmland in the process. “Every route they take will interfere with somebody,” he said. However, going to Washington would be the shortest route and cause the least amount of disruption.

Even after a final route is selected, Rhoads expects it to take six to eight years before the highway is built.

Harty said having a highway built near Loogootee would be beneficial to the city’s economic development. “They say if you are not within five minutes of an interstate, you can’t get a business,” he said.

Mike Myers, Daviess County Council, said a lot of houses and farmland were lost during constuction of I-69. “I’m just here to get more information,” he said. “If you connect the region, we want it to be in Washington.”

DuPont said a draft environmental statement will be finalized by this fall. There will also be additional public meetings in October and November. In the summer of 2021, he expects a final decision to be made on the new highway route.

Information about the project may be found at MidStatesCorridor.com. A questionnaire can also be found at the site, which DuPont encouraged those attending the meeting to complete. If someone is opposed to the project, he said they want to know why they are opposed.

A local project office is located at Vincennes University’s Jasper campus, administration building, Room 216. The hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, or by appointment. The office phone number is 812-482-3116.

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