MARTINSVILLE — There’s some hopeful news for Hoosiers preparing to hit the roads in the next few weeks.
The Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) said a new section of the I-69 Expansion Project will open between Indianapolis and Bloomington by the end of December.
At the start of the year, a nearly five-mile stretch was closed in both directions from State Road 39 to Morgan Street, just north of State Road 44, with the expectation it would remain closed throughout most of 2021.
During the closure, INDOT said crews have been working to upgrade the roadway and to build a section of the future I-69 that will connect Martinsville to Indianapolis.
According to the state highway department, the closure helped fast track the project, eliminating an entire year of construction.
“Once it opens it’ll be so much better for everyone,” said Haley Tomlinson, a server at Greek’s Pizzeria.
“I think it would be great to have the roads back open again just to have everyone be able to go where they need to go safely and smoothly,” said Madison Skaggs, front manager and head waitress at Come N Git It.
Resident Tamie Hatfield said she hasn’t been too bothered by the detours or construction that have caused changes in and around the Martinsville area. She believes the short-term inconveniences will be worth the long-term benefits.
“It’s really not been all that horrible. I live on the other side of 37 towards Morgantown,” said Hatfield. “I do however avoid State Road 39. I don’t go over there unless I absolutely have to because that’s where all of the traffic is.”
Like many locals, Hatfield said she knows the back roads to take and avoid most of the traffic during peak hours.
“Locals like us kind of know the back roads to take to get to the exits or whatever but people like going to IU games or Colts games it’s kind of crazy,” she said.
Hatfield said she looks forward to seeing the road reopen and the project when it’s complete. She said she also recognizes not everyone in Martinsville may feel the same about the impacts it’s had this last year.
“I’m not a homeowner that got affected by any of this changing, so I don’t know how those people all feel about it but for me in general it’s been pretty good,” said Hatfield.
Other residents and some workers in the area said the closure has caused headaches as traffic was detoured through the city during the last year.
With the traffic, some businesses shared they’ve seen an increase in volume of customers, while others said they actually have experienced a bit of a slowdown.
“Business hasn’t been as great as what we would have wanted it to be, granted it has been a lot busier during the evening time, but like afternoon we could have so much more people,” said Tomlinson.
“People do come in and they say, oh I couldn’t find any parking, it was super frustrating, all of that, so I guarantee once it does open there will be so much more parking, easier flow, easier access, and you’ll see a bunch more smiling faces and they’ll be happier to come in,” Tomlinson said.
“There has been tons of traffic through here, but it has really showed to us in downtown a lot of people come through and they’re like we didn’t even know this was here, so we’re just glad you have people actually coming in and seeing what we are in Martinsville,” said Skaggs.
Both said one of the things they love most about downtown Martinsville is the mom-and-pop shops and local businesses and they hope as the interstate opens to traffic in the next few weeks, that people will continue to patronize those.
“This town loves supporting local businesses. They’re all about it, they’re all about helping each other out, lifting each other, so it will definitely be a lot easier if they can have that access to do it,” said Tomlinson.
“We’re hoping it stays busy and stays good as all the roads open up and we hope you guys don’t forget us,” said Skaggs. “Just keep they support up, keep thinking about us, we’re not big companies it’s mostly started from scratch and just keep it going on.”
Although no date has been given for the opening of lanes to travel on I-69 in Martinsville, INDOT said that is expected by the end of the year. Work will then shift to upgrading the I-37 corridor between Martinsville and I-465 on the southwest side of Indianapolis. No full closures are planned as construction is expected to continue into 2024.
FOX59 spoke with INDOT about the progress in the project and the anticipated road opening this month. A spokesperson for the agency shared a statement on Tuesday.
Lanes of I-69 are still on track to open to traffic in Martinsville by the end of the year, which will be a huge milestone for the Finish Line project. The 5-mile section of SR 37 closed earlier this year to allow crews to work both faster and safer. By implementing the full closure, we’ve been able to eliminate an entire year of construction, putting us well on our way to completing the entire 26-mile stretch between SR 39 in Martinsville and I-465 in Indianapolis by the end of 2024. Next year construction will shift to mainline I-69 in Johnson and Marion Counties, in addition to a number of interchanges along the corridor.Spokesperson