Jasper commits $1.4M for Midstate Corridor study


JASPER — The prospect of constructing the long-discussed Midstate Corridor project took a leap forward Wednesday night when the Jasper Common Council authorized the commitment of more than $1 million in funds to a necessary environmental impact study for the potential highway.

The city agreed to contribute approximately $1.4 million to the regional development authority organizing the project — an amount that will be paid out over a three-year span and could change in the future.

The RDA has requested that Dubois County and the City of Huntingburg also contribute to the project, but votes regarding the involvement of those entities have not yet taken place.

“The council’s action tonight was extraordinarily significant,” Seitz said after the council’s meeting. “It is the first action on the three, local, public entities that match and support the support that the corridor RDA has received from the private sector. I think it shows again an extraordinarily high level of collaboration that’s already gotten the state of Indiana’s attention.”

Seitz said the funding source of Jasper’s portion has not yet been determined, but said the city has more than enough dollars in various funds to cover the contribution in the future.

Attorney Bill Kaiser, representing the Midstate Corridor RDA, explained that the study will look at the path that the discussed highway — which would run from the Ohio River to Interstate 69 — would follow. The RDA has an agreement with the Indiana Department of Transportation that says if the group secures the $7 million total estimated to complete the study, then INDOT will work with the RDA to make the study a reality.

Local government sources have been tasked with raising $3.5 million of that number, and private contributors are responsible for the other half of the funds. The private portion of the $7 million has been contractually pledged and the RDA currently has more than $700,000 in hand for the study, with more private dollars coming in later this year.

In order for the road to be built, Kaiser said it will need to qualify for federal funding, which is why the study is necessary. He explained that there is a huge incentive at the federal level for projects that have local input.

Kaiser said this level of collaboration between private and public entities is unprecedented in the state and INDOT is excited about the project.

“We are setting new paths here with respect to what we’re doing and things that are happening,” Kaiser said at the meeting.

“You are to be congratulated,” he told the council, “as is Mayor Seitz for his leadership and trying to make certain that this project goes forward in a way that will benefit our community for years to come.”

Though the precise route of the potential corridor will depend on the environmental study, Kaiser stressed that an RDA agreement with INDOT says the group has a “desire to cooperate and review an existing four-lane, divided U.S. 231 facility from the Ohio River to the I-64 Dale interchange, and develop a high-level rural highway through Dubois County, originating at the I-64 Dale interchange and connecting with I-69, possibly via State Road 37.”

“A study like this, you don’t get to say exactly where the route goes,” Kaiser said. “That’s what this consulting team will do over the next three years with respect to the engineering pieces, the environmental pieces, and of course, the other things that happen with respective road safety, commerce and transportation needs of the communities which it would affect.”

The exact cost of the study won’t be known until later this year or early next year when the state goes through its request-for-proposal process and the study portion of the project is bid out and awarded. The county has been asked to cover 50 percent of the local government pledge — about $1.75 million based on current estimates — and the City of Huntingburg has been asked to cover 10 percent, or $350,000.

If the cost of the study comes in considerably higher than the estimated $7 million, the RDA has the option to back out. He added that the scope of the project warrants sophisticated bidding.

“Imagine Nashville, Indianapolis, Owensboro, Jasper, Holiday World, French Lick, Crane,” Seitz said. “That’s the connection. That’s the power of the (Midstate) Corridor.”

Midstate Corridor topic of luncheon

The Rotary Club of Jasper will host a leadership luncheon regarding the Midstate Corridor from 11:30 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Habig Center in Jasper.

Jasper Mayor Terry Seitz and OFS Brands President and CEO Hank Menke will discuss the status of the proposed highway project, the role Menke has played in its progress and the anticipated future direction of the project. Part of the program will include a question-and-answer session.

Tickets are available at https://bit.ly/2BYzxz1 for $15 per person and will be sold until 5 p.m. Wednesday. A boxed lunch, provided by Patoka Lake Pub ‘N Grub, will be provided to all ticket holders.

Email rotaryjasperin@gmail.com with any questions.

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