The final Interstate 69 exit in Johnson County opened in White River Township on Friday.
I-69 Finish Line project team members, contracting partners and officials gathered at the new Smith Valley Road interchange to celebrate the grand opening. Passing semi-trailers could be heard honking their horns in a show of support to the crew.
“I use this interchange regularly and I think I speak for many Johnson County residents when I say how exciting it is to have all movements open to traffic, especially as we approach the holiday season,” said Mike Smith, Indiana Department of Transportation commissioner. “The fact that it’s open six months ahead of schedule is a testament to the hard work and dedication put forth by our contractors and the larger project team.”
The Smith Valley Road interchange partially opened the southbound entrance and exit ramps in August. The northbound exit ramp opened up earlier this week and the northbound entrance ramp opened .
Fourteen new bridges, two new interchanges and more than 4,000 linear feet of noise barrier have been completed in Johnson County as a part of the project, according to INDOT.
Officials said the last 14 traffic signals within the I-69 corridor between Martinsville and Indianapolis were removed Thursday night. Construction will continue in various stages along the I-69 Finish Line corridor up to Interstate 465. The entire corridor is scheduled to open up to traffic by the end of 2024. That will mark the end of the project’s decade-long march north from Evansville.
The $2 billion, 26-mile stretch of interstate from Martinsville to Indianapolis has been more than 50 years in the making. While I-69 between Fort Wayne and Indianapolis opened in 1971, it took until the early 2000s for state officials to make the southern part of the project a priority, and until 2008 for construction to begin in southern Indiana.
The County Road 144 and County Line Road interchanges in Johnson County opened in 2022, with Morgan County exits opening the year prior. The interstate has changed the shape of western Johnson County forever, including closing businesses, eliminating homes and forcing the relocation of a White River Township fire station.
The White River Township Fire Department has worked closely with INDOT throughout the project, Fire Chief Jeremy Pell said. Residents are already seeing the benefits of the close working relationship, he said.
“Johnson County is more than just a county to me,” Pell said. “This is what we call our home and it’s not home because of our house or one fire station. It’s home because of the community that we have. … As a kid, I had this vision of grandeur, of changing our little corner of the world. And I really think together we have accomplished that.”
BY THE NUMBERS
I-69 Finish Line Project
- 14 traffic signals removed
- An equivalant of 38,000 truckloads of concrete poured
- Over 50,000 tons of asphalt laid
- Over 500,000 construction labor hours invested in 2023
- 7,000 men and women working during peak summer months