While Hoosiers’ attention to news about Interstate 69 is focused on the 67-mile stretch of the Indianapolis-to-Evansville extension, which opened Monday, we haven’t heard much lately about the broader plan to extend I-69 to Mexico.
Few Hoosiers probably realize that short sections of I-69 already exist in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas – four of the six states the interstate would traverse between Indiana and Mexico. Because pieces of I-69 are already in place in each of those states, advocates have a better political argument to gain funding state by state for the massive project.
A fifth state, Arkansas, has signs on some roadways designating the Future I-69 corridor but no parts of the interstate yet.
Part of I-69 would also go through Louisiana.
Portions of the former Western Kentucky Parkway are already labeled I-69. Much of the interstate’s route in the Bluegrass State follows existing parkways that will be converted to interstate standards. While the process is difficult and costly, it will be far easier and less expensive than building on land without following existing roads, as the I-69 section that opened in Indiana does. A 17-mile stretch will overlap with Interstate 24, a link that will need only new signage.
Farther south, parts of a 42-mile segment from Memphis, Tenn., into northwest Mississippi are officially I-69. The interstate will overlap I-40, I-240 and I-55 in the Memphis area, plus a 12-mile section originally built for Mississippi State Road 304 is now I-69.
In Texas, a six-mile stretch near Corpus Christi and a 35-mile segment of highway near Houston are designated as I-69.
After federal officials gave the I-69 project high-priority status in the early 1990s, many dubbed it the NAFTA Superhighway after the North American Free Trade Agreement because it would connect Canada and Mexico. But given the unpopularity of NAFTA among many Americans, some groups began opposing I-69 because it would give businesses better access to U.S. customers, and that title is rarely used.
Daniels at IU
Here are a couple of suggestions for Mitch Daniels – outgoing governor and incoming president of Purdue University – when he speaks at the winter commencement of Indiana University in Bloomington on Dec. 15.
Wear red, not gold and black.
Steer away from the topic of college football.
If IU students or faculty members approach you and say they are in need of an old oaken bucket and ask whether you have one, watch out. It’s a trick.