Column: Mid-States, what's happening and next stepsMarch 25, 2020
By JASON DUPONT
Mid-States Corridor Project Team, project manager
The need for stronger connectivity in southern Indiana has been discussed for many years, and the Mid-States Corridor Project examines that improved highway connection. The Project is a detailed study and it’s important to give you a better understanding of what’s happening, next steps and what to expect.
The Mid-States Corridor would begin at State Road 66 near the William H. Natcher Bridge crossing the Ohio River at Rockport, continue generally through the Huntingburg and Jasper area and extend north to connect to Interstate 69. The job of this Project Team is to decide how to best make that connection while eliminating or minimizing as many impacts as possible.
This Project Team is preparing a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). It’s a detailed document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for major construction projects that will include federal funding. It’s a comprehensive, prescribed process that ensures informed decisions are being made. This means assessing benefits, impacts and costs of a range of alternatives.
A long list of impacts is considered to both natural resources and the community including impacts to the natural environment, residences, farms, businesses, managed lands and cultural resources.
The Project Team started with dozens of potential preliminary alternatives in summer 2019. After our screening process, ten alternatives on five routes are moving forward for more detailed study. These routes were identified after engineering and environmental analyses and input from stakeholders, including the public. You can find the full Screening report on the project website, midstatescorridor.com.
The remaining routes have the greatest potential to meet the project’s purpose and need to improve regional connectivity for personal accessibility and businesses, support economic development in southern Indiana, improve traffic safety in the area and improve access to major rail and air intermodal centers. Each will be considered as the Team takes a closer look at impacts, benefits and costs. No decisions have been made, and defined routes have not been determined.
By this fall, we expect to identify a preferred corridor when we publish the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The routes being considered now are 2-mile wide study bands. A preferred alternative will include a 2,000-foot corridor within which the approximately 300-600-foot right of way would ultimately be placed. A Record of Decision (ROD) from the Federal Highway Administration is expected in summer 2021 and will identify the selected alternative. Tier 2 studies can begin after the ROD is approved, and final alignments and access will be determined.
People are eager to hear a timeline, and we want to provide as much information as possible. Tier 2 studies are expected to take about two years to complete, depending on how they’re scheduled and requirements of the studies. After Tier 2 studies, available funding will determine the start of pre-construction activities and the timing of construction. We are multiple years away from detailed information about property impacts and right of way.
Many things are considered during the study, and public feedback is an important part of the process. We saw large and engaged crowds at our recent public meetings in Loogootee, Bedford and Jasper, and we’ve heard from hundreds more following the meetings. Our Screening Report Questionnaire is available through March 23, but comments are always welcomed by the Project Team. Comments can be made online on the project website, by mail, by phone or in person at our project office. We want to hear from you.
We’ll be reaching back out to agencies and the public this fall to get your feedback and comments after we publish the DEIS. Hearings will include a public comment period. Every comment received will be considered as the corridor is refined based on input received.
The Project Team has accomplished a lot, but there’s still much work to do. Know that we’ll continue to keep you informed, ask for and review your input and share information at key milestones. We appreciate the interest in this project.
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