Thursday, April 29, 2010

Interstate 64- Interstate 65 Connector Corridor One Step Closer

Another link in a Kentucky-Indiana road project that spans more than 30 years will open Friday in Spencer County with the completion of a section of U.S. 231.

The section of the new four-lane highway set to open is from the I-64 interchange to State Road 162 east of Gentryville.

Drivers then would follow S.R. 162 to the existing U.S. 231.

All of the new 22-mile stretch of U.S. 231 connecting I-64 to the Natcher Bridge is expected to be open by summer 2011.

Jody Wassmer, president of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce, said it's nice to see the fruits of a lot of work by numerous people over the years.

"Of course, the bigger picture is that this is part of the Interstate Corridor Connector," Wassmer said. "We're slowly getting to the day when we have a four-lane connector to I-64/I-65 coming through the heart of Daviess County. And there are economic development implications for us."

Phase I of the U.S. 60 bypass extension project east of Owensboro is under way with a 2.2-mile portion expected to be finished in 2013. Phase I goes from U.S. 60 East to Kentucky 144.

The timetable for Phase II is not confirmed since the state's road plan has not been finalized in the 2010-12 budget.

The tentative plan is for that stretch from Kentucky 144 to the existing U.S. 60 bypass near Kentucky 54 to be done by late 2011.

These two road projects -- the new, four-laned U.S. 231 in Spencer County and the U.S. 60 bypass extension -- along with the Natcher Bridge will complete the 100-mile corridor connecting I-64 and I-65.

"It was always intended that Indiana would eventually build a new U.S. 231, and it was hoped that would open about the same time as the Natcher Bridge," Wassmer said. "Now, eight years later, we are seeing major progress."

The Natcher bridge opened in August 2002.

"I've had several people in Indiana tell me that Owensboro will see a lot of activity from people driving here to shop, work and eat out," Wassmer said. "They said they just didn't want to deal with the winding, two-lane 231 to get to us."

The piece of U.S. 231 that will open Friday creates an opportunity for growth for Spencer County, said Nick Brake, president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corp.

"I see Spencer County and Daviess County being more closely linked through this project," Brake said. "They could become part of our MSA (metropolitan statistical area), which would expand our population."

"I can tell you that the opening of that four-lane highway will help the commerce and the economy in Spencer County measurably," said Tom Nutter, executive director of Lincolnland Economic Development Corp.

Opening the four-lane to S.R. 162 will bring the millions of visitors to Holiday World/Splashin' Safari into the community more conveniently and more safely, Nutter said.

"It's a major enhancement, even to the state of Indiana," he said. "The fact that it brings the highway closer to completion to Owensboro is of extraordinary importance. Our community wants very much to see Owensboro become connected to I-64."

Nutter praised the cooperation between Spencer and Daviess counties for the corridor connector project.

Completion of the entire corridor will create more opportunities for the region, Brake said.

"This is our interstate," he said. "We're creating a four-lane road between I-64 and I-65, and the main center between this is going to be Owensboro. The area around the hospital will grow with retail and good commercial development much like what you would see around an exit from an interstate."