By Hayley Robb, Building Kentucky
The first shovels of dirt have been turned for the Interstate 69 Ohio River Crossing (I-69 ORX). Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Secretary Jim Gray, Henderson Mayor Steve Austin, Henderson County Judge/Executive Brad Schneider and Evansville, Indiana, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke joined forces last month to break ground on I-69 ORX in Henderson. They gathered at the site of the future US 41 and I-69 interchange in Henderson.
“This is a monumental day,” Gov. Beshear said. “My family roots in Western Kentucky go back for generations. I know how long people in this area have waited to see this bridge, and I know how much it means to them. That’s why completing this important interstate connection has been a priority for my administration. The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will mean improved travel and increased opportunities in Western Kentucky and beyond. It gives me a lot of pride to proclaim to the people of Western Kentucky that ‘We’re off!’ Today is the first step toward completing this critical connection.”
I-69 ORX is divided into three sections for construction. I-69 ORX Section 1 focuses on improvements in Henderson and extends from KY 425 to US 60. It includes an extension of over six miles of I-69, new interchanges with US 41 and US 60 and a reconstructed KY 351 interchange. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) is overseeing the Section 1 project with construction beginning in earnest this summer and continuing through 2025.
“This is a significant year for Henderson as we mark our 225th anniversary. In a year that we’re celebrating the history of Henderson, it’s only fitting that we break ground on this important project,” Mayor Steve Austin said. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will hold a prominent spot in Henderson’s history because of what it will mean to our city. We’ll have a safer way for our citizens to cross the Ohio River, a faster way to move goods and a better connection for our communities.”
Elected officials, KYTC members, Federal Highway Administration officials, I-69 ORX Project Team members and crews from Ragle, Inc. were on hand to celebrate the groundbreaking.
“This day has been decades in the making,” Judge/Executive Brad Schneider said. “We’ve seen the vision for a long time, and we’ve known what the I-69 Ohio River Crossing will mean to Henderson County and the entire region. We’re already seeing the interest and investment, and I can’t wait to see what’s next. This project will bring opportunities to our area for decades to come. Today is the culmination of a lot of hard work and dedication of many people, and I’m so glad to be here for this moment.”
I-69 ORX Section 2 is a bistate project between Indiana and Kentucky that will complete the I-69 connection from US 60 in Henderson to I-69 in Evansville, which includes the new river crossing. Design is expected to begin in 2025 with construction anticipated to begin in 2027 and continue through 2031. Both states continue to look for opportunities to accelerate that timeline. I-69 ORX Section 3 is the bridge approach construction in Indiana. Design work and preconstruction activities are underway. The Indiana Department of Transportation is overseeing this section and construction is expected to begin in 2024 and end in 2027.
“It’s a great feeling to stand in Henderson today, pick up a shovel and help turn the first dirt on this monumental project,” Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said. “The I-69 Ohio River Crossing will join our communities in ways not possible before. Interstate connectivity is a gamechanger, and I’m excited to see the growth and opportunities ahead for Evansville and Henderson. I’ve always seen the many benefits this region offers. With the I-69 Ohio River Crossing, we’re taking those benefits to the next level.”
More information about the project can be found at I69ohiorivercrossing.com.
Gov. Beshear said that today’s announcement follows a historic investment of $250 million in his upcoming budget for major transportation infrastructure projects. The General Fund dollars target three projects: the Brent Spence companion bridge project, the I-69 Ohio River Crossing in Henderson and the completion of the Mountain Parkway expansion project. The one-time funds are meant to give Kentucky the flexibility to meet state match requirements for expected federal grants.